By PAUL J. SCHARF, M.Div.
Editor in Chief
(Read Part 1)
In this short series we are seeking to analyze the times in which we live in light of Biblical truth—like “the sons of Issachar who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do” (1 Chron. 12:32).
Hezekiah’s name means, “The LORD is my strength.”
He reigned in Judah during the time of the Assyrian Captivity (722 B.C.) of the northern 10 tribes of Israel—after which Assyria, led by Shalmaneser V (cf. 2 Kings 18:9), severely threatened Judah. During this time, Babylon was also positioning itself to become the world’s next great superpower.
The account of Hezekiah’s rule is found in these three texts:
For a great and effective door has opened to me, and there are many adversaries. (1 Cor. 16:9)
Like Paul, we want to face the future with faith rather than fear, but we must also be realistic about both the opportunities and the dangers which lie ahead of us.
Certainly we do have many opportunities in our paths.
In fact, in presenting this article, I feel a little bit like the New Testament author Jude, who began writing for one purpose (“concerning our common salvation”), but changed his purpose to “exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).
In this case, however, the change was more positive.
As noted in the previous installment, I had been preparing for some time to offer Biblical guidance regarding the need for us as Bible-believing Christians to begin seriously preparing for the real possibility of the active persecution of the church for the first time in American history.
But—while it is surely more complicated than this summary—at least in part, the secularists in our nation overreached. People saw issues such as forcing school children to receive someone of the opposite gender in their restroom or shower room; or someone losing their life savings and more for refusing to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple; or churches being threatened with legal action for promoting the theology they had held for generations as crossing a bridge too far. And they turned out in droves in last November’s election to tell the ruling class that enough is enough!
Through that election, we—apparently—witnessed a swing that may bring us a temporary reprieve, at least from the immediate threat of the persecution of the church in America.
This certainly does not mean that all our troubles are over, or that the nation or even the church—to say nothing of the world!—have turned toward God and His righteousness. It does not in any way mean that we are deserving of such grace. However, the threat that was so real to our continued enjoyment of the basic freedoms of speech and religion seem to have been temporarily halted.
The question for us, then, is: What are we going to do with this amazing extension of time and opportunity to serve the Lord fully and freely?
God gave Hezekiah an incredible extension of time, coupled with an amazing deliverance from his enemies.
Let us seek to apply lessons from his life to our own situation—keeping this important question before our minds:
Where do we go from here—as we face an uncertain future?
In King Hezekiah we find, first of all, a man who acted in the spirit of Ecclesiasts 9:10:
Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going.
We also see in his example some of the same characteristics that the Apostle Paul commanded for us in Colossians 3:23-24:
And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.
Notice the following summary of Hezekiah’s life, given in 2 Chronicles 31:20-21:
Thus Hezekiah did throughout all Judah, and he did what was good and right and true before the LORD his God. And in every work that he began in the service of the house of God, in the law and in the commandment, to seek his God, he did it with all his heart. So he prospered.
The chronicler records the incredible works that God used Hezekiah to accomplish in Judah at the beginning of his reign. These included making repairs in the temple (2 Chron. 29:1-19), re-establishing the appropriate offerings in the temple (2 Chron. 29:20-36) and leading the nation in observing the Passover (2 Chron. 30).
As we find recorded in 2 Chronicles 30:26-27 regarding that Passover celebration:
So there was great joy in Jerusalem, for since the time of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel, there had been nothing like this in Jerusalem. Then the priests, the Levites, arose and blessed the people, and their voice was heard; and their prayer came up to His holy dwelling place, to heaven.
The effect of Hezekiah’s reforms was overwhelmingly startling! Its impact is summarized in the amazing contrast between the types of responses offered to “the runners” who carried Hezekiah’s “proclamation . . . throughout all Israel and Judah” (2 Chron. 30:5-6):
So the runners passed from city to city through the country of Ephraim and Manasseh, as far as Zebulun; but they laughed at them and mocked them. Nevertheless some from Asher, Manasseh, and Zebulun humbled themselves and came to Jerusalem. (2 Chron. 30:10-11)
Disobedience to the law had become so common over the centuries that Hezekiah’s renewed efforts were a shock to the national system of Judah. Yet, as the text notes, many people were encouraged by this newfound attempt at obedience. The contrast reminds us, to a certain extent, of the varied responses given to the ministry of our Lord when the scribes opposed His teaching, but:
. . . the common people heard Him gladly. (Mark 12:37)
It is precisely at this point in the narrative that Hezekiah begins to understand firsthand the Assyrian threat from Sennacherib.
Editor’s Note: For more on this topic, you can listen to a related message by Paul Scharf by clicking here.
(To be continued)
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Scripture taken from the New King James Version®.
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