Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Jul 23 2019 - 2 Kings 20 – Hezekiah's illness and Babylon

Hezekiah became ill and Isaiah told him to put his house in order as he was going to die. Hezekiah, however, turned to the Lord in prayer, weeping bitterly. And the Lord took pity on him and healed him and told him that he would live for another fifteen years. The Lord also repeated his promise that the city of Jerusalem would not be captured and destroyed by the Assyrians.

Hezekiah was thankful for the Lord's promises but could not help feeling that he might yet die. He asked for the Lord to give him a sign that he had power to do what he had promised. Often when God's people asked for such a sign, God was angry with them and rebuked their lack of faith (see, for instance, Matthew 12:39; 16:1, Luke 1:18-20), but here, as with Gideon many years before, God granted a sign; the shadow cast by the sun on steps in Jerusalem went ten steps backwards.

We have been given the ultimate sign that God keeps his promises. When some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus asking for a sign that would prove him to be who he declared himself to be, he answered, "A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." (Matthew 12:39-40). God had promised to send his Messiah into the world. He had promised to save us from our sins. And he sent his Son, Jesus, into the world to die in our place. More than that, Jesus rose triumphant over sin and death, the beginning of God's new creation. In him all of God's promises find their fulfilment and shall find their fulfilment. His death and resurrection are the ultimate sign that God is true to his word and can be trusted in life and in death, for they are more than a sign, they are the great act by which the world is redeemed.

In the goodness of God, Hezekiah had recovered from his illness. Somehow the news of his recovery had reached as far as Marduk-Baladan, king of Babylon. He sent Hezekiah letters and a gift at the hands of some of his envoys. Hezekiah showed these Babylonians all the glories of his kingdom, "the silver, the gold, the spices and the fine oil – his armoury and everything found among his treasures" (v.13).

Isaiah, hearing of what Hezekiah has done, brings a word of judgment from the Lord. Hezekiah had previously used all of the gold and silver from the temple in vainly trying to buy off the threats of the king of Assyria. Now, relieved of that threat, he has been foolish enough to show off his remaining treasures to another rising empire in the north. The Lord declares that in generations to come, the Babylonians will come and lay siege to Jerusalem and take its king and royal officials off into captivity. But Hezekiah is only relieved that there will be peace and security in his own lifetime.

And so it happened. Hezekiah saw out his days in peace and at death was succeeded by his son Manasseh as king.

Hezekiah was a godly king who sought to do what was pleasing to God. He was fortunate enough to have Isaiah the prophet as one who could counsel him. Nevertheless he did not always act wisely. His unwise actions stored up trouble for generations to come. What kind of legacy are we leaving to future generations? Will we be remembered for the way in which we have contributed to the growth and health of the kingdom of God or will we be remembered as those who have weakened the cause of the kingdom?

Father God, we thank you for King Jesus who not only lived consistently to please you but also acted wisely and well in all that he did. Thank you that the solid and unshakeable foundation of your kingdom rests on him and not on us. But we pray that you would fill us with your Spirit and enable us to follow the Lord Jesus and to live wisely and well to the glory of your name. Help us to be those who build your kingdom rather than weakening it.

Peter Misselbrook