2 Chronicles 29:1-11
Hezekiah began to reign when he was five and twenty years old, and he reigned nine and twenty years in Jerusalem…
The surroundings of Hezekiah in his youth seem, at first view, to have been unfavourable in the extreme. He was the son of a depraved father. He grew up at a corrupt court. Good kings and bad follow one another in very illogical succession. It must be that there is a self-acting power at the centre of every personal life. Let us cling to the belief, too, that, however vast the moral inequalities of human lives may be, no life is allowed by the Creator to be altogether destitute of gracious influences. In Hezekiah's case, at least, we can have no doubt that such influences were present. It is not unnatural to believe that his mother, presumably the daughter of Zechariah, the faithful prophet of King Uzziah's day, was a woman of devout character. To the loving nurture of a mother was added the faithful counsel of godly men. Moral giants lived in those days. Micah was prophesying, Nahum was about to begin his work. During the entire lifetime of Hezekiah, Isaiah was fulfilling his office in Jerusalem. Tradition says that he was Hezekiah's tutor; there can be no doubt that he was his faithful counsellor. Repulsed by the father, he would naturally turn with greater earnestness to the son. But all this touches only the outer circle of the gracious influences by which Hezekiah was encompassed. It has been said, and there is a world of truth in the saying, that more than half of the environment of any man is — God. The God who is not far from every one of us was near to the young prince in the corrupt capital of Judah. We have good reason for believing that Hezekiah had not been unresponsive to his heavenly promptings. A work begun so quickly after his accession to the throne must have been premeditated. We must suppose that Hezekiah had lived a thoughtful life. The character of the work to which the king addressed himself is deserving of attention. It was a radical work. Great as was the peril to which the kingdom was exposed from external attack, great as was its moral unsoundness, Hezekiah saw that all its trouble was rooted in ungodliness. The king's initial sot in "opening the doors of the house of the Lord" was, it is likely, more philosophical than he himself realised. Reverence for God lies at the basis of all that is trustworthy in private character and of all that is enduring in public order. Hezekiah's reform was also positive in nature. It addressed itself not chiefly to the extermination of idolatry, but to the development of a genuine faith. Of their own accord the people went out to "break in pieces" the emblems of idolatry. When God wishes to regenerate the soul He does not at the outset uproot sinful affections, He implants love for Himself. Hezekiah's was a thoroughgoing work. The taunting charge of illiberality could not extort from him the smallest concession to the false religions of other lands. Not only image and "grove" — the sacred pillar or tree of Astarte — were to be hewn down, but the worship of the "high places" was to be destroyed. Of Asa and Jehoshaphat we are told both that they did and that they did not interfere with this form of worship. They probably destroyed such sanctuaries as had become openly idolatrous, and allowed the others to remain. But Hezekiah adopted extreme measures. The brazen serpent fashioned by Moses in the wilderness, and still preserved, the people regarded with superstitious veneration. Hezekiah declared that the image was like any other "piece of brass," and broke it in pieces. Hezekiah would not consent that even the germs of idolatry should remain in the land. How difficult was the mission to which Hezekiah thus committed himself! In the mode of procedure adopted by Hezekiah in carrying through his reformation are certain things worthy of notice.
1. It is peculiarly gratifying to observe that he acted promptly. The die was cast. In the first month of his reign Hezekiah, like Abraham, who, when bidden to offer Isaac, "rose up early in the morning and went to the place of which God had told him," was wise in allowing himself no time for hesitation. Delay never softens the hard aspects of duty or lessens its difficulties. For committing one's self to the service of Christ no other time is so favourable as the first year, the first month, the first day, of one's entrance upon a new sort or period of life.
2. It is instructive to notice that Hezekiah engaged personally in the work of reform. He did not commit it all to subalterns.
3. Deserving of special mention is the fact that in the prosecution of his policy Hezekiah relied chiefly upon moral influences. He might have compelled, but he chose rather to persuade. In this he showed the utmost wisdom. If the reform was to be real, the hearts of the people must be enlisted in it. We are, finally, prepared to inquire what results were effected by the king's determined effort. The immediate outcome was most gratifying and most wonderful. The officers of religion responded — the priests somewhat slowly, but the Levites with all their hearts. The people did the same. The nation felt to its utmost limits the electric thrill of a new life. The crusade against idolatry waxed strong throughout the kingdom, and "a burst of spring-time," as Dean Stanley beautifully calls it, succeeded. "The thing was done suddenly," the record says. But is not the same true of well-nigh every successful reform? Those advocating a righteous cause have at least two excellent reasons for viewing it with larger hope than external appearances warrant. Something in every moral being is in secret alliance with truth and justice. The second reason is stronger still; it is that by which the sacred historian explains the success of Hezekiah: "The Lord had prepared the people." We may reckon with confidence upon God's care over any work of His. To the reformatory work of King Hezekiah must be attributed a result still more imposing, though to be sure not more important. It delivered the southern kingdom from the fearful peril by which the northern kingdom had been overwhelmed. Is it not a painful thing to have to add that even so thorough a reform as this did not prove lasting? Some of the people doubtless remained steadfast, but the most fell away.
(T. S. Barbour.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Hezekiah began to reign when he was five and twenty years old, and he reigned nine and twenty years in Jerusalem. And his mother's name was Abijah, the daughter of Zechariah.