2 Chronicles 32:31
And so when ambassadors of the rulers of Babylon were sent to him to inquire about the wonder that had happened in the land, God left him alone to test him, that He might know all that was in Hezekiah's heart.
Sermons
Danger of ProsperityJ. Spencer.2 Chronicles 32:31
Hezekiah's Fall Considered and AppliedE. Cooper.2 Chronicles 32:31
Hezekiah's MistakeT. Whitelaw 2 Chronicles 32:31
Hezekiah's SinNewman Hall, LL.B.2 Chronicles 32:31
Hezekiah's Trespass with the Ambassadors from BabylonR. Bickersteth, M.A.2 Chronicles 32:31
The Danger of Being Left to OneselfD. L. Moody.2 Chronicles 32:31
The Trial of RestorationW. Clarkson 2 Chronicles 32:24-26, 31
Hezekiah's HappinessW. Clarkson 2 Chronicles 32:27-30, 32, 33

I. ITS OCCASION. "In connection with the business of the ambassadors of the princes of Babylon."

1. The senders of this embassy. "The princes of Babylon;" more particularly Berodach-Baladan, the son of Baladan, King of Babylon (2 Kings 20:12); or Merodach-Baladan (Isaiah 39:1) - undoubtedly the correct form, "Merodach has given a son." Three bearers of this name in the cuneiform inscriptions. The first, a king of South Chaldea and son of Jakin, with whom Tiglath-Pileser II. had warlike dealings (O. Smith, 'Assyrian Discoveries,' p. 256); the second, also a son or' Jakin and King of the Chaldeans, whom Sargon defeated, dethroning him and burning his city of Dur-jakin, B.C. 710-9 ('Records,' etc., 7:46-49); and the third, a King of Babylonia, whom Sennacherib overthrew in the vicinity of Kish ('Records,' etc., 1:25; G. Smith, 'Assyrian. Discoveries,' p. 297). The Merodach-Baladan who sent ambassadors to Hezekiah was not the first, unless all three were the same person, but the son and successor of the first (Schrader). The sole question is whether the second and the third were the same, and, if not, which of them it was that despatched envoys to Hezekiah. Sehrader distinguishes the two because the Bible describes Hezekiah's Merodach-Baladan as the son of Baladan; while the monuments designate Sargon's as the son of Jakin ('Die Keilinschriften,' p. 342); but Sayce ('Fresh Light,' p. 135) identifies the two, and explains "the son of Baladan" (2 Kings 20:12; Isaiah 39:1) as due to the error of a copyist, like "Berodach" for "Merodach." An absolute decision is meanwhile impossible.

2. The date of the embassy.

(1) The sacred narrative appears to connect it with Hezekiah's sickness, and this again with Sennacherib's invasion (Ewald, Schrader, Delitzsch). But if Hezekiah's sickness occurred after the invasion, the arrival of the ambassadors must have taken place before it, as otherwise he could not have shown them the treasures of the palace which, prior to their coming, had been despoiled to appease Sennacherib.

(2) Hence the opinion has gained ground that, as Hezekiah's sickness must have occurred about the time of Sargon's invasion of Judaea, the mission of Merodach-Baladan must be placed in connection with that event, and that both the sickness and the mission should be dated about B.C. 712-10 (Sayce, Cheyne, Driver).

3. The pretext of this embassy.

(1) Friendship. To congratulate Hezekiah upon his recovery from what had seemed a fatal malady (2 Kings 20:12). A proper thing for friends and acquaintances, especially if Christian, to do - to congratulate each other on restored health, provided always such congratulations be sincere, not like these of Joab to Amasa (2 Samuel 20:9), but like those the patriarch of Uz received from his friends (Job 42:11).

(2) Scientific research. To inquire of Hezekiah concerning the wonder that was done in the land (2 Chronicles 32:31). According to the view taken of the date of this embassy, the wonder referred to will be the destruction of Sennacherib's army, or, what is more probable, the miraculous phenomenon connected with the step-clock of Ahaz (Delitzsch, Keil, Stanley). There is, however, no ground for thinking that either of these formed the real reason.

4. The object of this embassy. Political. Perhaps

(1) with an eye to future expeditions, "to investigate a little more closely the condition of the forces of Judah" (Ewald); but also

(2) with a view to present needs, to concert measures against the King of Assyria by forming a league between Babylon and the Palestinian states (Sayce, Rawlinson).

II. ITS NATURE. The discovery to Sargon's (or Sennacherib's) envoys of all the treasures in his palace and in his kingdom (2 Kings 20:13; Isaiah 39:21). A twofold indiscretion.

1. A political blunder. So Isaiah warned Hezekiah. The days would come when these very treasures which Hezekiah had so good-naturedly exhibited to the ambassadors of the Babylonian king, or others in their room, would be carried into Babylon (Isaiah 39:3-8). The prophet saw that "from Babylon especially Judah had nothing good to hope for, inasmuch as that state, though often in dispute with Nineveh, was yet by its peculiar position too closely entwined with Assyria; and it was really only a question whether Nineveh or Babylon should be the seat of universal dominion Accordingly, it flashed like lightning across Isaiah's mind that Babylon, attracted by those very treasures which Hezekiah, not without a certain complacency, had displayed to the ambassadors, might in the future become dangerous to that same kingdom of Judah it was now flattering" (Ewald, 'The History of Israel,' 4:188). "Even political sharp-sightedness might have foreseen that some such disastrous consequences would follow Hezekiah's imprudent course" (Delitzsch on 'Isaiah,' 2:126).

2. A personal transgression. That Hezekiah's indiscreet conduct was the outcome of mingled motives is hardly doubtful. Amongst these were

(1) vanity, or a feeling of inward complacency - in fact, he felt flattered by the attentions of a great Oriental prince like Merodach-Baladan;

(2) pride, or a sense of his own importance, arising from the fact that his military resources - his wealth, weapons, and war-chariots - were so abundant; and

(3) self-sufficiency, which made him set a higher value on himself than on Jehovah as an Ally.

III. ITS CAUSE. "Jehovah left Hezekiah to try him, that he might know all that was in his heart."

1. The fact stated. "Jehovah left Hezekiah."

(1) He did not warn Hezekiah by sending Isaiah to him before the Babylonian ambassadors had arrived at Jerusalem, or before the evil had been done. God is under no obligation to his intelligent creatures, or even regenerate children, to adopt special means to warn them of approaching danger in the shape of temptation, seeing that the faculties they possess, aided by the light of natural and revealed truth, should suffice to apprize them of the imminence of peril.

(2) He did not supernaturally enlighten Hezekiah, either as to the secret designs of the ambassadors or as to the disastrous consequences that should in after-years result from the false step he was about to take. The former Hezekiah should have suspected - Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes; knowledge of the latter was not requisite for determining the course of action which duty prescribed.

(3) He did not exceptionally reinforce Hezekiah in the moment of trial, so as to prevent him from falling. Had Hezekiah sought grace, he would have got it; Jehovah was under no obligation to extend it unasked.

2. The reason given. "That he might know all that was in his [Hezekiah's] heart." The heart the proper seat of religion (Deuteronomy 30:6; 1 Kings 8:58; Jeremiah 32:39; Ezekiel 11:19). The character of the heart in every instance known to God (2 Chronicles 6:30; 1 Kings 8:39; Psalm 7:9: 139. 50:4; Jeremiah 17:10; Luke 16:15). Yet this character not always visible to others or even to one's self (Jeremiah 17:9). Hence God is wont, when his wisdom deems it necessary, to withhold reinforcements of grace from the individual, that this discovery - the unsuspected character of the heart - may be thereby brought to the light. So Christ dealt with Peter (Luke 22:31, 32).

LESSONS.

1. The danger of flattery.

2. The sin of ostentation.

3. The feebleness of good men when left by God.

4. The necessity of having the heart right in religion.

5. The certainty that God tries all. - W.







God left him to try him, that he might know all that was in his heart.
I. HEZEKIAH'S SIN.

1. Its nature.(1) All sin originates in the heart. Hezekiah's sin did not, like that of David, break forth into gross and external violations of the Divine law, but it betrayed itself in the indulgence of secret pride, in the gratification of a vainglorious spirit, in an idolatrous exaltation of the creature above the Creator. His heart was lifted up.(2) The particular nature of his sin will be more clearly discerned, if we advert to the occasion of his fall (2 Kings 20:13).

(a)He was actuated by a wrong spirit.

(b)His action had a wrong tendency.It was calculated to erase every serious impression which a recital of the wonder done in the land might have made on these heathen strangers. It was also calculated to confirm them in the conviction that the kings of Judah, notwithstanding their superior pretensions to the knowledge and favour of the true God, in reality neither possessed nor avowed any better source of protection and prosperity than the kings of other nations enjoyed.

2. Its aggravations.(1) His whole life had been an uninterrupted succession of great distinguished mercies.(2) He had lately experienced a most remarkable proof of the Divine interposition in his favour.

II. THE PARTICULAR VIEW OF THIS TRANSACTION EXHIBITED IN THE TEXT.

1. It unfolds the cause of Hezekiah's fall. "God left him." What a striking illustration is thus incidentally presented to us of man's depravity and weakness. No sooner was the barrier removed than the stream rushed with impetuosity into the channel of sin. To guard us against presumption the Scriptures present to us the examples of some of the most eminent servants of God, not all falling whenever they were left to themselves, but falling in those very points where we should conceive them to have been most firmly established; Abraham, Moses, etc. What need for us to pray, "Take not Thy Holy Spirit from us."

2. It discloses to us the secret reasons of the Divine conduct in thus permitting him for a season to be overcome. God left him "to try him," that Hezekiah himself might know all that was in his heart.(1) Nothing but a deep sense of our natural depravity can effectually destroy our vain self-confidence, and can excite us to a diligent use of those means which are essential to our growth in grace, and to our perseverance in well-doing. We shall

(a)Regard our heart with a holy jealousy.

(b)Studiously examine the secret motives of our conduct.

(c)Sedulously avoid those places and practices which are most likely to prove a snare to us.

(d)Be instant in prayer for a supply of the grace that is in Christ.

(e)Fear to resist and grieve the Holy Spirit of God.(2) In exact proportion to our views of the depravity of our heart will be the degree of our self-condemnation and humiliation before God. Hence, how highly should we value self-knowledge, and how anxiously should we labour to acquire it. Address —

1. Those who studiously close their eyes and shut their ears against every discovery of the sin which dwelleth in them.

2. Those who having in vain endeavoured to stifle their convictions of sin, are filled with consternation and terror at the extent of their depravity.

(E. Cooper.)

1. Nations professing God's holy name must beware of sinful compromises with those by whom His truth is corrupted. The chief fault for which judgment befel Hezekiah was listening to the proposal to become the ally of a heathen prince.

2. It is an imperative duty which rests upon Christians to do somewhat for the spiritual welfare of foreigners who visit them.

3. The necessity for recognising every moment our need of Divine help.

(R. Bickersteth, M.A.)

A fragment of the history of the Assyrian writer Berosus tells us that at this time Babylon had shaken off for a season the supremacy of Assyria, and, under Berodach Baladan, was strengthening herself as a rival sovereignty. The fame of the discomfiture of Sennacherib before Jerusalem had reached his ears, and it might well seem to him that an alliance with Hezekiah would be useful against a common danger. The recovery of Hezekiah and the miraculous sign furnished a suitable occasion for an embassy which was sent ostensibly to congratulate the king and "inquire of the wonder done in the land." There was no sin in Hezekiah showing the embassy what was costly, useful, beautiful, but in the vanity which gave these things chief prominence.

I. HERE IS A LESSON FOR US AS A NATION. Let us also show strangers whatever we have of interest; but let us not keep in the background what should be chief of all, and let them go away thinking that what we most value is wealth, power, pleasure. It is the duty of the Christian pulpit at such a time to ask the people, "What have you shown? What is in your heart?" Has God the chief place? Is righteousness more to us than riches, and principle than policy? Are we more desirous to live in the fear of God than to keep in awe other nations? If we pompously display our treasures, may we not some day be ignominiously despoiled? If in any form we embrace Babylon, may not our nation some day be crushed by Babylon? Whatever our princes and statesmen may do, let the people, who, more and more, are the nation and responsible for its character and conduct, let the people cherish and make manifest the conviction that worth is more than wealth, and piety than power, and righteousness than rank, and purity than pleasure, and God than gold. "In the fear of the Lord is strong confidence"; "The throne is established by righteousness"; "Righteousness exalteth a nation"; "Seek, first, the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you."

II. THE LESSON IS APPLICABLE TO THE CHURCH as well as to the Nation. What is our idea of the chief excellence and stability of any Church? Is it the support of Law, the patronage of princes, a grand hierarchy, rich endowments? Is it noble buildings, imposing ritual, inspiring music? Is it learning and eloquence in the pulpit, with congregations numerous, or cultured, or wealthy? These features have their value more or less, and these can be shown, displayed, gloried in. But the chief treasures of the Church cannot thus be exhibited. Alas for the Church that prides itself chiefly in the outward and visible. Do we desire for our church such things chiefly and regard them most worth seeking, prizing, extolling? Or are we cultivating, praying for, and valuing far more — Penitence, Faith, Love, Zeal, Holiness, Usefulness? What is in our heart?

III. WE MAY APPLY THE LESSON TO INDIVIDUALS. What do we ourselves regard as our chief treasure? This may be developed by circumstances. It has been said that after the massacre at Culloden certain flowers bloomed where blood had been copiously shed, unknown before. The seeds were dormant, till favourable conditions brought them forth. Hezekiah was a good man, but in his heart were latent weaknesses, which it was well for him to know before it was too late. Better that they should be revealed and cured than be hidden, unchecked, and with worse and more lasting fruits. Crises in the life of nations and individuals have developed unsuspected capacities, both for good and evil. For both in the case of David and Peter. For the commission of the worst of crimes in the case of Judas. If occasion occurred of displaying our most valued possession, what would we select? We may reasonably show what is showable — house, garden, books, pictures, children; if gratefully to the Giver, and not in vanity. But are these our chief treasures? If angels came to us from their far country, what would they see we prize most? Were some such unexpected visitor to enter our abode to interview us, would he find family religion — the gathered household at the domestic altar, private prayer, personal godliness? Is the maturity of Christian character sought more than the prosperity of business and the increase of wealth? Do we regard the favour of God more than the praise of men; communion with heaven more than intimacy with the great ones of the earth; a good conscience more than stores of silver and gold? Temptation may come to try what is in our heart. By some departure from strict integrity business may be promoted and wealth increased. If we yield it is evident that we regard money as more worth having than a good conscience. If some gratification is indulged at the cost of sobriety and virtue, we show that pleasure is more to us than purity. On what do our thoughts chiefly dwell? "As a man thinketh in his heart so is he." On what do we chiefly set our affections and direct our energies? "Where a man's treasure is there will his heart be also." Hezekiah's wealth went to the Babylon he courted. If we choose the world we perish with it. Jerusalem in ruins is an emblem of a soul without God.

(Newman Hall, LL.B.)

The naturalists observe well, that the north wind is more healthful, though the south be more pleasant; the south with his warmth raiseth vapours, which breed putrefaction, and cause diseases; the north with his cold drieth those vapours up, purging the blood, and quickening the spirits. Thus adversity is unpleasant, but it keepeth us watchful against sin, and careful to do our duties; whereas prosperity doth flatteringly lull us asleep. It never goes worse with men spiritually than when they find themselves corporeally best at ease; Hezekiah was better upon his sick-bed than when he was showing off his treasures to the ambassadors of the King of Babylon.

(J. Spencer.)

One day I went out with my little girl. I said to her, "Emma, you had better let me take hold of your hand." She said, "No; I had rather keep my hands in my muff," and she walked off very proudly. Presently she came to some ice, and down she went, and was hurt a little. I said, "You had better let me hold on to your hand." She said, "No; but let me hold on to your finger." Presently she came to some more ice; she could not hold on to my finger, and down she went, and hurt herself still more. Then she said, "Papa, I wish you would hold on to my hand." So I took her wrist in my hand, and she couldn't fall.

(D. L. Moody.)

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