Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Story 16 Hezekiah: When Bad News Comes 2 Kings 19

At Wednesday’s Dinner and Discussion, we continued with our journey of The Story. This week was on Hezekiah, the 13th of 20 kings of the tribe of Judah. He is a bit of a wonder, coming from a father who closed the worship of the Temple of Solomon altogether. He was raised in an idolatrous family. Yet as soon as he became king, he started reform. He returned to the Lord.
His first reform was the consecration of the Temple, opening it up, cleaning it up, making it holy so that the Lord’s anger might turn from God’s children.  Once the Temple was consecrated, sin sacrifices were made for not only himself but for the entire nation of Israel, I believe to include the northern tribes that were already in captivity. Of course to their shame, not enough priests and scribes had thought to consecrate themselves, though not a few fellow Levites were prepared and took up in aiding the offerings for this first sin offering.
Upon the completion of the offering, he sent out invitations for the celebration of the Passover. People came as far as Dan to celebrate this. But during this time, it was brought to his attention that the people hadn’t properly consecrated themselves. The priests made sure that this time, they were properly prepared for their service, but not so much for the people. So Hezekiah prayed for them. He prayed that the Lord forgive their ignorance and uncleanness before his sight. And the Lord did.
Once the Passover was completed, it is at this point that all the people, according to 2 Chronicles 30, that the people themselves went out and destroyed all the idols. The people were once again worshipping God, having put away the idols. And then it came, the bad news.
After restoring the Temple, the king of Assyria comes demanding a tribute. The gold that Hezekiah put on the Temple is stripped to pay this final tribute. It wasn’t enough for Sennacherib. He wanted more. First he sent his emissary to the gate to talk in the hearing of the soldiers and the people inside the walls while this king set camp outside.  I like the words that Hezekiah tells his men at this point:
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged because of the king of Assyria and the vast army with him, for there is a greater power with us than with him. With him is only the arm of flesh, but with us is the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles.” And the people gained confidence from what Hezekiah the king of Judah said. – 2 Chronicles 32.7-8
Of course the Lord protected him and the people of Jerusalem. The king was called away. Yet as he was called away, he left a letter that had one fact and one claim. The fact is that no nation that stood against Assyria was still standing. And the claim was that he would be back. But as Hezekiah had said, they have the Lord God to help them. 
Still, we give Peter a hard time about losing focus on Jesus because he became distracted and took his eyes off of Jesus. But was Hezekiah any different? He had seen great things that the Lord had done. Still the letter distressed him to the point that the Lord sent Isaiah to encourage him.
After the miraculous deliverance, Hezekiah receives more bad news. Whatever is ailing him, though it sounds like cellulitis, is killing him. He turned once again to the Lord who in turned blessed him with another 15 years. A sign to prove that he wasn’t hallucinating was that the sun would move back 10 steps. Some say that this is about a few hours. And it wasn’t just local to Israel.
People came from as far as Babylon, curious as to why the sun stood still. We’re not sure how they traced it to the promise of Hezekiah, but came they did. And when they arrived, he forgot himself. He opened all that he had acquired, forgetting that the Lord had blessed him. Then when confronted with the sin, because the Lord wasn’t willing to turn his word on Hezekiah, Hezekiah thought, “At least the punishment won’t happen while I am alive to see it.”
So in a nutshell, Hezekiah was a man, a king, who though he struggled with arrogance and pride, that he lost focus on the Lord. Through him, the Lord teaches us what to do when bad news comes. And bad news tends to come. Some examples of bad news is the dissolution of marital vows, a medical diagnosis that wasn’t wanted, or perhaps death of a loved one.
Our neighbors also deal with bad news. It isn’t just for the believer, or as judgment against the unbeliever. Yet knowing how to handle bad news when it comes will allow us live a life that serves as testimony of faith, that glorifies our Heavenly Father. Knowing how to handle bad news will also allow us to speak grace and hope to our neighbors, and perhaps bring them close to the Father.
Our first response to bad news is to humble ourselves before the Lord. When King Hezekiah heard their report, he tore his clothes, covered himself with sackcloth, and went into the Lord’s temple. – 2 Kings 19.1
When the letter stating that nations haven’t stood before Assyria, that their gods were destroyed, even the king was in sackcloth. Who was he to stand before the Lord in his own royal finery with this concern? He knew that compared to God, he was nothing better than he lowest peasant, and that was how he appeared before the Lord.
Humbling ourselves can be in that attitude. It is also an attitude of self-inspection, a personal inventory. It means that perhaps there is something that you’ve overlooked and need to get right, maybe even a sin that needs to be repented. When we humble ourselves before the Lord, we become bare to Him. Nothing can be hidden. Even Adam learned of this when he tried hiding himself from the Lord, even covering parts of himself with leafs. God is able to see to our core.
Our second response is to trust it to God. “Hezekiah took the letter from the hand of the messengers, read it, then went up to the Lord’s temple, and spread it out before the Lord.  Then Hezekiah prayed before the Lord.” – 2 Kings 19.14-15
Hezekiah. When they received the letter, the king laid it out before the Lord at the temple. He then prayed over it. That is what we are to do. When the bad news is received, it doesn’t do good to dwell upon it, rather just to turn it over to the Lord.
Now don’t misunderstand. This isn’t something that we do just once. It is something that we are to do until we receive an answer. Jesus told of a woman who was always seeking justice and finally the judge finally gave in. Of course our Father isn’t worn down by our constant prayers. But are we as steadfast to pray over that bad news?
David, when he was told that the child that came from Bathsheba and him was going to die, David kept praying and fasting until he received an answer. It wasn’t the answer he wanted, but once he had the answer, then he stopped praying. This is how our prayers should be, steadfast, faithful, and sincere.
Now the final lesson is to be Isaiah. “Then Isaiah son of Amoz sent a message to Hezekiah: “The Lord, the God of Israel says: ‘I have heard your prayer to Me about Sennacherib king of Assyria.’ This is the word the Lord has spoken against him: He will not enter this city or shoot an arrow there or come before it with a shield or build up an assault ramp against it. He will go back on the road that he came and he will not enter this city. This is the Lord’s declaration.” – 2 Kings 19.20, 21, 32, & 33
Hezekiah was praying over the situations, the sieging of Jerusalem, the letter, and his coming death. From those prayers, Isaiah was sent to give him a word of encouragement. The Lord will not allow the Assyrians to take this city, much less enter it. And the Lord has heard your prayer and you will live an additional 15 years.
When we are praying over the situation, are we open to hearing from the Lord? Sometimes He answers us through His Word. Sometimes, He answers us through someone else. This last week on Focus on the Family, a woman who grew up in South Africa, daughter of missionaries, was raised with the ideology that women’s sole purpose was to be mothers, tending house. She was torn because she loved Jesus, but she vowed that she wouldn’t be that type of woman, a mom.  So in college, Lisa-Jo Baker started dating this young man. After church, a stranger turns to them and tells them that even though she isn’t sure about motherhood or being a lawyer to change the world, God still loves her, that it didn’t matter which she chose. For her, this stranger was her Isaiah.

Now that brings me to the close. In the face of bad news, we humble ourselves and turn it over to our Heavenly Father. But perhaps you aren’t facing bad news, but you know someone who is. Isaiah wanted to be a messenger for the Lord. My challenge to you, then, is to be open as Isaiah was. If there is someone who is facing bad news in her life, be willing to share God’s love and grace. But to be prepared for this, Isaiah saw the revelation that motivated him. So we should be in the Word now, so that we can develop that discernment, to develop the eyes that Jesus wanted us to have when he said the fields are ripe to harvest but the workers are few. Pray that the Lord of the harvest sends out workers.  To see such opportunity is my prayer.

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