Hezekiah and The LORD

Hezekiah became king of the southern kingdom of Judah at the age of twenty-five.  He succeeded his father Ahaz who had reigned for sixteen years and was unfaithful to the LORD. 

The Scriptures record of Ahaz, “For he sacrificed to the gods of Damascus which had defeated him, saying, ‘Because the gods of the kings of Syria help them, I will sacrifice to them that they may help me.’ But they were the ruin of him and of all Israel” (2 Chronicles 28:23-24).

Ahaz was not the ideal role model for his son, nevertheless Hezekiah “did what was right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his (fore) father David had done” (29:2).

Notably the first thing Hezekiah did was to open and repair the doors of the house of the Lord. Then he gathered the priests and Levites at the East Square and commanded them to sanctify themselves and the Temple. “Hear me, Levites! Now sanctify yourselves, sanctify the house of the LORD God of your fathers, and carry out the rubbish from the holy place.”

The people of the land had built high places and burned incense to false gods “in every single city of Judah” for sixteen years during the reign of his father Ahaz. But the new king wanted to change all that. It seems Hezekiah had a difficult task in front of him, one in which he could justifiably anticipate opposition.

He advised the people of his intentions: “It is in my heart to make a covenant with the LORD God of Israel, that his fierce wrath may turn from us” , and then he promptly informed them of their responsibility: “My sons, do not be negligent now, for the LORD has chosen you to stand before him, to serve him, and that you should minister to him and burn incense.”

It seems Hezekiah’s changes were not completely endorsed by everyone: only fourteen Levites stood up. But then they gathered their brethren and sanctified themselves and went to work cleaning the house of the Lord according to the King’s command.

Hezekiah appeared unfazed by the opposition. As soon as the Temple was cleansed and sanctified, “he rose early, gathered the rulers of the city, and went up to the house of the LORD”. They brought with them seven bulls, seven rams, seven lambs and seven male goats. Then Hezekiah commanded the priests to offer them on the altar of the Lord. And “they presented their blood on the altar as a sin offering to make an atonement for all Israel” according to the King’s command.

Hezekiah then arranged the musicians and singers according to the Lord’s commandment through David, Gad and Nathan. The musicians and singers and burnt offering began simultaneously. “So all the congregation worshipped, the singers sang, and the trumpeters sounded; all this continued until the burnt offering was finished.”

Hezekiah encouraged them to continue in praise and worship, and then commanded the congregation to bring sacrifices and thank offerings, “and as many as were of a willing heart brought burnt offerings.”

Apparently the burnt offerings “were in abundance” and “the priests were too few” resulting in the Levites having to help out. Nevertheless, “the service of the house of the LORD was set in order. Then Hezekiah and all the people rejoiced that God had prepared the people, since the events took place so suddenly.” (2 Chronicles 29:36).

Hezekiah had reigned over the southern kingdom during the period immediately following the captivity of the northern kingdom. In spite of the majority of the northern kingdom going into captivity Hezekiah sent messengers from Dan to Beersheva with letters commanding:

“Children of Israel, return to the LORD God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel; then he will return to the remnant of you who have escaped from the hand of the kings of Assyria” (2 Chronicles 30:6).

Whilst many “laughed them to scorn and mocked them” , there were “some from Asher, Manasseh and Zebulun (who) humbled themselves and came to Jerusalem.”

Furthermore, a great multitude gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover , “a very great congregation” , and “they stood according to custom” . For the many that had come without sanctifying themselves to the Lord “the Levites had charge of the slaughter of the Passover” .

Also Hezekiah “prayed for them, saying, ‘May the good LORD provide atonement for everyone who prepared his heart to seek God, the LORD God of his fathers, though he is not cleansed according to the purification of the sanctuary.’ And the LORD listened and healed the people.”

“Hezekiah gave encouragement to all the Levites who taught the good knowledge of the LORD . . . ” Not since the days of Solomon when the nation was united was there such celebration. So joyous was the occasion that the feast was extended for another seven days, with the king and the leaders of Jerusalem donating thousands of bulls and sheep to provide for the people.

Following the feast, the congregation, charged with a zeal for the Lord, “broke the sacred pillars in pieces, cut down the wooden images, and threw down the high places and the altars . . . ” in Jerusalem and in the cities of Judah, before finally returning to their own cities.

And after setting in place the divisions of the priests and the Levites to serve the Lord, Hezekiah “commanded the people who dwelt in Jerusalem to contribute support for the priests and the Levites, that they may devote themselves to the Law of the LORD” (2 Chronicles 31:4).

The people brought their tithes and offerings in abundance, and they were laid in heaps. “When Hezekiah and the leaders came and saw the heaps, they blessed the LORD and his people Israel.” Hezekiah then commanded storerooms to be prepared, thus allowing the appropriate distribution as required by those in the service of the Lord.

“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.”

Hezekiah did what was good; he pursued knowing the Lord personally. He did what was right; he assumed his responsibilities as a king. And he did what was true; he implemented and upheld the word of God:

  1. he commanded the priests and Levites to sanctify themselves and to repair and prepare the house of the Lord;
  2. he commanded the Levites to take their positions of service and responsibility before the Lord;
  3. he gathered the leaders of Jerusalem and brought sacrifices and commanded the priests to offer them on the altar;
  4. he commanded the singers and musicians to accompany the people and sing praise for the duration of the burnt offering;
  5. he sent letters from Dan to Beersheva commanding the people to return to the Lord and celebrate the Passover in Jerusalem;
  6. he established the priests and Levites according to their divisions and commanded the people of Jerusalem to contribute support;
  7. he commanded storerooms to be prepared to stock the needs of those in the service of the Lord.

Hezekiah’s father had little time for the God of Israel, and so the people’s faith waned and their experience of His personal involvement was tainted, so much so that they were either not aware of His involvement or they just didn’t care.

Hezekiah, however, persevered in knowing the Lord with all his heart, and he prospered, consequently the people of Israel benefited during his reign. Through Hezekiah they could see that God not only existed, but that He was also faithful to His word, and was intimately involved with the affairs of the nation.

This is Israel’s God! We can not fool ourselves we can not live the past in the present. Ways of life change, increased technology and advanced systems rebel against and try to conquer traditional forms and customs, so much so that we have come to accept change as a necessary part of life.

Nevertheless, God does not change. He is still the same yesterday, today and for ever, and He waits for Israel, a people who are often uncertain of God’s involvement in these days because of having mixed beliefs and different understandings of God. But He is listening, and He waits for their leaders to cry out. He searches their hearts to see if they will humble themselves and pursue the knowledge of Him and lead the people back to God.

“Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it can not save; nor his ear heavy that it can not hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear” (Isaiah 59:1-2).

So He urges His people to return to Him, even if the leaders are slow to do so. “ . . . if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).

No amount ofo good works (mitzvot) will win God’s approval; it is only repentance and a new heart of faith that can accomplish that. “But on this one will I look; on him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at my word” (Isaiah 66:2).