2 Kings 18:1-8
Now it came to pass in the third year of Hoshea son of Elah king of Israel, that Hezekiah the son of Ahaz king of Judah began to reign.…
What a refreshing contrast to some of the lives we have been considering, is this description of the life of Hezekiah! How pleasant it is to read of such a life as his, after we have read of so many kings of Judah and Israel, that "they did evil in the sight of the Lord, and walked in the ways of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin"! It is a pleasant contrast even to the life of Hezekiah's own father Ahaz. It is a somewhat strange thing that, brought up amid such evil surroundings, Hezekiah should have turned out so well. The chances were all against him. His father's example was anything but favorable to the development of religion in his son. How careful parents should be as to the example they set their children! The best help parents can give their children to begin life with is godly training and a Christian example. I read lately, "that of the anarchists at Chicago, who were executed for their crimes some time ago, almost all had either been deprived of their parents when young, or had never received any home training; they had never been to a Sunday school; the influences surrounding them had been utterly godless." What a responsibility rests on parents to train their children well! Much of their future happiness depends upon the home life of childhood and youth. Perhaps Hezekiah had a good mother. Perhaps he had been entrusted to the care of some one of the priests who remained faithful to God amid the prevailing unfaithfulness, idolatry, and sin. Perhaps he was early brought under the influence of Isaiah. At any rate, we read of him that he did right in the sight of the Lord. He is singled out for special praise. It is said of him that "he trusted in the Lord God of Israel; so that after him was none like him among the kings of Judah, nor any that were before him" (ver. 5). What was the consequence? Just what the consequence will be to all who put their trust in the Lord and walk in his ways: "The Lord was with him; and he prospered whithersoever he went forth."
I. TRUST IN GOD LEADS TO PERSONAL RELIGION. Hezekiah's faith in God was not a mere idle profession. It did not consist in the mere belief of certain historical facts. It did not consist in the mere assent to certain doctrinal truths. It did not consist in the mere observance of certain outward forms and ceremonies. It was a real faith. It extended to his whole life. "He did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that David his father did" (ver. 3). "He clave unto the Lord, and departed not from following him, but kept his commandments, which the Lord commanded Moses" (ver. 6). Suck is true religion. Religion is the dedication of the heart and life to God. A man may differ from me in creed, and in the way he worships the same God; but if he loves the Lord Jesus Christ, and serves God in sincerity, he is a truly religious man. "In every nation he that feareth God, and. worketh righteousness, is accepted with him." How expressive and instructive are some of these quaint old phrases! "He clave unto the Lord." Hezekiah set before him one great aim at the commencement of his life, and that was to please God. Whatever it might cost, he made up his mind to keep close to God. It is a grand resolution for the young to make. It is a grand aim to keep before them in life. But Hezekiah had not merely a goal at which he aimed. He had certain well-defined lines along which he reached that goal. He knew that, to please God, he must keep his commandments. He did not set up his own will in opposition to the will of God, king though he was. He did not dispute the wisdom of God's commands. He felt that God knew much better than he did the path of wisdom and of duty. This is one of the best evidences of true faith - of real trust in God. We may not see the reason for a command of God, but let us obey it. A parent will give his child many commands, for which it is quite unnecessary, perhaps undesirable, that the child should know the reason. Obedience based on faith is one of the first principles of life. Here, then, was the beginning of Hezekiah's success in life. It began with the state of his own heart. He trusted in God. That trust in God molded his whole character, and character is the foundation of all that is permanent in life.
II. TRUST IN GOD LEADS TO PRACTICAL EFFORT. Hezekiah very soon showed by his conduct that he was determined to serve God. He did not leave the people long in doubt as to which side he was on. In the very first year of his reign, and in the first month of it, he opened the doors of the temple of the Lord, which his father had closed, and repaired them (2 Chronicles 29:3). As soon as the temple was set in proper order, he caused the priests and the Levites to commence at once the public service of God. Then, in the second month, he issued a proclamation throughout all the land of Israel and Judah, inviting the people to come to Jerusalem to keep the Passover in the house of the Lord. What a festival and time of rejoicing that was! For seven days they kept the Feast of Unleavened Bread with great gladness, and the Levites and the priests praised the Lord day by day, singing with loud instruments unto the Lord. Peace offerings were offered; confession of sin was made, not to the priests, but to the Lord God of their fathers; and the presence of the Lord was so manifested among the large congregation, that when the seven days of the Passover were ended, the whole assembly unanimously agreed to keep seven days more. "So there was great joy in Jerusalem: for since the time of Solomon the son of David King of Israel there was not the like in Jerusalem" The effect of the service was electrical When the Passover was finished, the people went out to all the cities of Judah, and brake the images in pieces, and cut down the groves, and threw down the high places and the altars until they had utterly destroyed them all. In all this work of destroying the symbols of idolatry, Hezekiah the king took a leading part. Even the brazen serpent which Moses had made did not escape the destroying hand. It was an interesting relic of Israel's journeying in the wilderness, and of their wonderful deliverance by God. But it had become a snare to the people. It had become an object of worship to some, as relics and images become to many professing Christians. They worshipped it and burnt incense to it. Hezekiah was not the man to destroy anything that was a help to true devotion. He encouraged the Levites to use the trumpets, the harp, and the psaltery, to stir up and stimulate the singing of the congregation, and to render to God a hearty and glorious service of praise. But he saw that the brazen serpent had become an idol in itself, and was leading the thoughts of the people away from the true Object of worship. So be broke it in pieces. All honor to the determined reformer, who destroyed everything that had become dishonoring to God! All honor to those stern reformers who from time to time have broken in pieces the symbols of idolatry in the Church of Christ! Would that in the Church of Rome today some such reformer would arise, who would denounce and overthrow its image-worship and Mariolatry! Such was the work of reformation which Hezekiah accomplished among his people. It shows how God honors those who are determined to serve him, and how he blesses immediate and decided action. Hezekiah might well have hesitated in this work. The whole country was given over to idolatry. He might have dreaded a rebellion. In some parts of the country he got little sympathy in his efforts to restore the ancient religion. When the messengers inviting the people to the Passover passed through the country of Ephraim and Manasseh and. Zebulon, the people there laughed them to scorn and mocked them. Such manifestations of popular feeling might have caused Hezekiah to falter in his decision. He might have thought that he would introduce his reforms gradually. But no! the idolatry was wrong, and it must be put down at once. The worship of the true God was right, and it must at once be resumed, Hezekiah was right. Had he waited, had he begun his reign by tolerating idolatry for a while, he would have found it much harder to overthrow afterwards. Is there not here a lesson for us all? If you see the right loath clearly pointed out to you, resolve to walk in it, though all men should be against you. Remember the brave words of Athanasius. He was mocked at for his zeal for the truth. Some one said to him, "Athanasius, all the world is against you; ' then said he, "Athanasius is against the world." Follow the light of conscience and of duty. What matter though you may incur danger or worldly loss by so doing?
"And because right is right, to follow right
Were reason in the scorn of consequence." Furthermore, whatever work you see needs to be done, do it at once. Promptness and decision are two essential elements of success in life. Do you see that you need to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ if you are to be saved? Then come to him today. A more convenient season may never arrive. We know not what a day may bring forth. Do you hear God calling you by his Word to perform some act of kindness or forgiveness? Then do it at once. Do you hear God calling you to some work of usefulness in his Church? Begin at once to undertake it. If our trust in God is a real trust, it will lead us, not only to personal religion, but also to practical effort. We can trust him to take care of us when we are doing his work. "Therefore be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord."
III. TRUST IN GOD LEADS TO SUCCESS IN LIFE. "And the Lord was with him; and he prospered whithersoever he went forth" (ver. 7). He was victorious over his enemies. He threw off the yoke of the King of Assyria, and drove back the Philistines, who had made great inroads during the previous reign. When the people honored God, their God honored them and gave them victories over their enemies. As a reward of Hezekiah's faith and faithfulness, God gave him much riches and honor. Hezekiah had trusted God at the beginning of his reign. He had done God's will, though he did not know what it might cost him, and before he was established on the throne. And God did not disappoint his trust, but made him greater and more honored than all the kings of Judah before or after his time. Even in a temporal point of view, no one ever loses by trusting God and doing what is right. Christ promises that every one who is willing to give up every earthly possession for his sake will receive an hundredfold more in this life, and in the world to come life everlasting. We saw, above, the dangers of prosperity. Hezekiah's career shows us what is the safeguard of prosperity. "The Lord was with him." Where that can be said, there is no danger in prosperity. In the godless man, prosperity is often a curse. It hardens his heart. He thinks that he is rich and increased in goods and has need of nothing. But the prosperity of the Christian may be a great blessing to himself and others. Take with you into your business, into your social relations, into every plan you make and every work you undertake, the presence of God, the fear of God, the commandments of God; and then there will be no fear of your success. Trust in the Lord. Put your eternal interests into the hands of Jesus. He is worthy of your trust. They that trust themselves to him shall never perish. Trust in the Lord, that it may lead you to personal religion, to practical effort, to success in life.
"Set thou thy trust upon the Lord.
And be thou doing good,
And so thou in the land shalt dwell,
And verily have food." C.H.I.
Parallel VersesKJV: Now it came to pass in the third year of Hoshea son of Elah king of Israel, that Hezekiah the son of Ahaz king of Judah began to reign.