Hezekiah contract some deadly disease and is about to die when Isaiah comes to pay him a visit. Not one to beat around the bush, Isaiah tells him to “Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover” (2 Kings 20:1). Hezekiah accepts the word of the prophet, turns aside to pray,
“Remember, Lord, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.” 2 Kings 20:3
Hezekiah wept bitterly. Assuming these were his last words with Isaiah, he honors the Lord and simply says, don’t forget I gave you my best.
The story could have ended there, but before Isaiah was able to leave the middle court (my guess is that wasn’t far), he gets a message from God. The Lord chooses to heal Hezekiah, plus a bonus: adds 15 years to his life. Isaiah returns to deliver the message and solution. I’m thinking Isaiah was happy to do this since Hezekiah was actually a man of faith and integrity. He received a favorable prophesy to tell the man who honors God–any preacher’s dream!
Hezekiah asks for a sign, something impossible for man, so Isaiah prays and the shadow on the steps (think big sun dial) reverses its direction for 10 steps (2 Kings 20:11). Interesting, yes?
Hezekiah is a man of God for sure, but perhaps not the brightest bulb in the factory, or perhaps the disease affected his mind enough that when a group from Babylon sends gifts and visits him, Hezekiah gives them the grand tour of the place, nothing is hidden. Isaiah hears about this and confronts Hezekiah:
“Hear the word of the Lord: The time will surely come when everything in your palace, and all that your predecessors have store up until this day, will be carried off to Babylon. Nothing will be left, says the Lord” 2 Kings 20:17
Bad news indeed, but the message doesn’t end there.
And some of your descendants, your own flesh and blood who will be born to you, will be taken away, and they will become eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon. 2 Kings 20:18
Worse news. Hezekiah once again humbly accepts the words from Isaiah. The prophecy is well before the Babylonian Empire is a force to be reckoned with.
Manasseh & Amon
Manasseh, Hezekiah’s son, succeeded him as king and reigns 55 years–completely undoing everything Hezekiah lived for. Back to the pattern of “he did evil in the eyes of the Lord…” Manasseh and Amon to follow rebuild the Asherah poles, the altars to Baal and other gods. Somehow they didn’t see how the Lord had provided for his people during Hezekiah’s years.
Amon didn’t last long, only 2 years. He was assassinated by some officials and Josiah was put in his place.
Josiah did well and “followed completely the ways of his father David, not turning aside to the right or to the left” (2 Kings 22). When he discovers the book of the Law, he asks a prophet for insight. Huldah lets him know the Lord will “bring disaster on this place and its people” (22:16), but since Josiah’s “heart was responsive” (22:19), his “eyes will not see all the disaster” (22:20) that the Lord is going to bring. We are treated to a long list of idols, shrines, etc., that Josiah removed. These details provide a peak into how far God’s people had wandered from his word, his ways and his covenant.
Josiah reestablished the Passover celebration and removed all the idolatrous worship throughout his kingdom, even after he heard the words of the prophet, knowing disaster would eventually come, so that many may turn back to the Lord, to know his peace and rely on the one true God. This is a similar battle for us today. We see what is happening all around us, we know the truth in Christ, yet we must remain resolute, we must be diligent to help as many people as possible come to know Jesus Christ. Lord, may your words seem as fresh to us today as they did to Josiah, may we celebrate your covenant like no others before (23:22).
The rollercoaster continues as we near the end of the kings. The simple lesson is this: God is steady and consistent the whole time–we, however, are all over the map! Lord, help us to keep you in the center of all, to learn from Hezekiah and Josiah that which is good as well as Manasseh and Amon, that which is bad. You’ve shown us both sides of the coin, Lord, help us remember!