The relationship between two intertwined and contrasting aspects of Isaiah's message.
One of the unique things about the book of Isaiah is how it spans the entire exile. Isaiah himself did not live through all of it, but he spoke about much of it, even naming future people!
Isaiah’s ministry spanned the life of 4 kings:
Isaiah 1:1 CSB
The vision concerning Judah and Jerusalem that Isaiah son of Amoz saw during the reigns of Kings Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah of Judah.
Hezekiah, son of Ahaz, was an awesome king! He is ranked up there with David and Solomon in the line of kings. THEY were the greatest kings of the united kingdom, but after the split, Hezekiah is the greatest king of Judah.
Isaiah references all 4 kings in Isaiah 1, and then he uncharacteristically includes a narrative about the life of Hezekiah right in the middle of his writings. That is how significant this man was.
We are going to look at the reign of Hezekiah because, in the midst of a very dark time for the nation of Israel, Hezekiah is an inspiration.
The reign of Hezekiah is mentioned in 2 Kings 18-20, 2 Chronicles 29-32, and Isaiah 36-39. The records are very similar, with each adding a minor detail or two that they felt was worth noting. When Isaiah speaks of Hezekiah in chapter 36, it is already the 14th year of his reign! That is like jumping in the middle of the story! I think for us to appreciate the life and leadership of Hezekiah, as well as what is referenced in Isaiah, we need to get the back story.
Hezekiah was a descendant of David, but also a descendant of Ahaz.
Matthew 1:9–11 CSB
Uzziah fathered Jotham, Jotham fathered Ahaz, Ahaz fathered Hezekiah, Hezekiah fathered Manasseh, Manasseh fathered Amon, Amon fathered Josiah, and Josiah fathered Jeconiah and his brothers at the time of the exile to Babylon.
Not only is Hezekiah in that lineage, so is Ahaz the wicked!
This is a reminder to me that it does not matter what your pedigree is, it does not matter if your dad was a pastor or if you come from a long line of missionaries, each generation, each person, is responsible for their own relationship with God and their own service to and worship of God. There is no such thing as genealogical glorification where you get in with God because you are related to or descended from someone.
This was not only true with kings, but also with the descendants of Abraham! It is equally true for you and me.
PARENTS: just because you follow Jesus does not mean your children will. On a related note, God can use ANYONE, even the wicked, as part of his plan.
God can use you regardless of your lineage, regardless of your parents, even regardless of your past, IF you will follow Hezekiah’s lead.
Let’s turn to 2 Chronicles 29 and we can follow the story of Hezekiah there.
2 Chronicles 29:1–10 CSB
1 Hezekiah was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Abijah daughter of Zechariah. 2 He did what was right in the Lord’s sight just as his ancestor David had done.
3 In the first year of his reign, in the first month, he opened the doors of the Lord’s temple and repaired them. 4 Then he brought in the priests and Levites and gathered them in the eastern public square. 5 He said to them, “Hear me, Levites. Consecrate yourselves now and consecrate the temple of the Lord, the God of your ancestors. Remove everything impure from the holy place. 6 For our ancestors were unfaithful and did what is evil in the sight of the Lord our God. They abandoned him, turned their faces away from the Lord’s dwelling place, and turned their backs on him. 7 They also closed the doors of the portico, extinguished the lamps, did not burn incense, and did not offer burnt offerings in the holy place of the God of Israel. 8 Therefore, the wrath of the Lord was on Judah and Jerusalem, and he made them an object of terror, horror, and mockery, as you see with your own eyes. 9 Our fathers fell by the sword, and our sons, our daughters, and our wives are in captivity because of this. 10 It is in my heart now to make a covenant with the Lord, the God of Israel so that his burning anger may turn away from us.
From the first month in office, he made some sweeping changes.
We are in the month during which we acknowledge our new president. It is often during the initial months that the vast majority of changes are presented. This is what Hezekiah did. As soon as he took the throne he made some radical changes!
As we look at the leadership of Hezekiah at the beginning of his reign it is a great inspiration for every Jesus follower, and especially those who are leaders in their homes, work and governments.
In verse 10 we read that the reign of Hezekiah starts with him sharing with the people what is on his heart or “in my heart” as he put it.
I know we have talked about this before, but the Hebrew heart is not referring to the organ that pumps blood. It refers to a person’s thoughts, emotions, will and knowledge. When speaking of leaders, and of those faithful followers of God, it is very common for Biblical writers to mention their heart. Most significantly, the comparison of their heart to Gods.
Acts 13:22 CSB
After removing him, he raised up David as their king and testified about him, ‘I have found David the son of Jesse to be a man after my own heart, who will carry out all my will.’
David, Solomon, and so many others were known for seeking the heart of God and having a heart for God. Why is this significant? We learned from God, after the flood, that the human heart is only wicked all the time. Therefore, in order for men and women to live in a way that pleases God, their hearts have to be changed. Their will, emotions, thoughts and knowledge need to be tuned to that of God’s.
The Shema is THE passage for a Jew to memorize and recite. It is also an insight into what it means to truly live as humans the way God designed us:
Deuteronomy 6:5 CSB
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.
Notice it starts with the heart. I do not think that it has to flow in this order, but God did choose the order ;) To love God with all our heart takes effort. It will be a struggle while on this earth because we are born with broken, sinful hearts that want to draw us away from God. One day, when God restores all things back to the way they should be, he will do so starting with the heart. This was declared by the prophet Jeremiah:
Jeremiah 24:5–7 CSB
“This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: Like these good figs, so I regard as good the exiles from Judah I sent away from this place to the land of the Chaldeans. I will keep my eyes on them for their good and will return them to this land. I will build them up and not demolish them; I will plant them and not uproot them. I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the Lord. They will be my people, and I will be their God because they will return to me with all their heart.
God needs to renew hearts because the heart is the essence of a person, and what comes out of a person comes from their heart. Jesus gave us a very graphic picture of this:
Matthew 15:17–19 CSB
“Don’t you realize that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is eliminated? But what comes out of the mouth comes from the heart, and this defiles a person. For from the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, sexual immoralities, thefts, false testimonies, slander.
Therefore it must be guarded. It is precious.
Proverbs 4:23 CSB
Guard your heart above all else, for it is the source of life.
Hezekiah made the changes that he did because his heart was tuned to God’s. I must confess that I have spent many of my prayers asking for wisdom to make decisions at work, at church and with my family. That was the example of Solomon. But I have been convicted during my study time for this message that I need to spend more time praying for the heart of God! While it is good to make wise decisions, it is better to have a passion for God.
Hezekiah's heart (mind) drove him to want to make a covenant with God. He was committing to accepting the covenant God has offered to the Jews in the wilderness. He was not making a new covenant, he was surrendering to the will and passion of God.
The Shema says to love God with our heart, soul and strength. The SOUL is the neck or breath. Surrender, or submission was often demonstrated by placing one’s foot on the next of another:
Joshua 10:23–25 CSB
...They brought the five kings of Jerusalem, Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish, and Eglon to Joshua out of the cave. When they had brought the kings to him, Joshua summoned all the men of Israel and said to the military commanders who had accompanied him, “Come here and put your feet on the necks of these kings.” So the commanders came forward and put their feet on their necks. Joshua said to them, “Do not be afraid or discouraged. Be strong and courageous, for the Lord will do this to all the enemies you fight.”
For a king to willingly surrender to any other authority takes humility. We read in 2 Chron 29 that Hezekiah bowed down to God:
2 Chronicles 29:29–30 CSB
When the burnt offerings were completed, the king and all those present with him bowed down and worshiped. Then King Hezekiah and the officials told the Levites to sing praise to the Lord in the words of David and of the seer Asaph. So they sang praises with rejoicing and knelt low and worshiped.
Bowing, kneeling low and worshipping (declaring the worth of someone greater than you) are all signs of humility. Hezekiah was not doing this as a sign of defeat in battle, but as a willing submission to a God who cares for and protects his children. It is MUCH easier to submit to someone (boss, elder, spouse - GOD) when we know that they care for us!
1 Peter 5:6–7 CSB
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your cares on him, because he cares about you.
Not only is it to our benefit to submit to God, it is a gift to him when we do. It is part of worship to be willing to surrender to the will and leadership of one greater than you - for as you do so you declare this greatness and bring honor to their name. Every time we willingly submit to God we bring honor to his name. God wants this more than any gift we can ever offer out of thanks or even for our sins:
Psalm 51:17 CSB
The sacrifice pleasing to God is a broken spirit. You will not despise a broken and humbled heart, God.
To be a great leader, to be an image bearer for God, to be a Jesus-follower means that regardless of our position in our families, our workplaces, our military units or our governments, we must first and foremost surrender to the leadership of the King of kings and Lord of lords. Only a leader who is humble enough to admit his dependence upon God is going to be able to lead with the blessing of God.
There is a difference between saying you are a God-following and living like one! The reason the Jews were in exile (at least those from the Northern kingdom were at this time) is because they claimed to be the people of God but did not live like it.
If we were to use the Shema as our outline, this would be the strength. The physical application of a surrendered life that comes from a heart that seeks God. If my actions do not match my beliefs, what good are the beliefs?
What good does it do to say we believe something and then not live it?
James 2:20–26 CSB
Senseless person! Are you willing to learn that faith without works is useless? Wasn’t Abraham our father justified by works in offering Isaac his son on the altar? You see that faith was active together with his works, and by works, faith was made complete, and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness, and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. In the same way, wasn’t Rahab the prostitute also justified by works in receiving the messengers and sending them out by a different route? For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.
James gives us a history lesson on people who had faith and acted on it. They are the examples.
Hezekiah is a similar example. Even though many of his own people did not like what he was doing, he acted on his faith. Here is a list of some of the actions he did that proved his faith:
1. Cleansed the Temple (29:12-19)
2. Reestablished sacrifices and worship (29:20-36)
3. He celebrated the Passover (30)
They did not even have enough priests to follow all of the rituals that God required. Though Hezekiah was “careful to do everything the way the Lord commanded”, he encouraged people who had not been purified to celebrate the passover. This was his prayer to God for them:
2 Chronicles 30:18–19 CSB
A large number of the people—many from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar, and Zebulun—were ritually unclean, yet they had eaten the Passover contrary to what was written. But Hezekiah had interceded for them, saying, “May the good Lord provide atonement on behalf of whoever sets his whole heart on seeking God, the Lord, the God of his ancestors, even though not according to the purification rules of the sanctuary.”
And what was the result?
2 Chronicles 30:20 CSB
So the Lord heard Hezekiah and healed the people.
4. He destroyed idols
2 Chronicles 31:1 CSB
When all this was completed, all Israel who had attended went out to the cities of Judah and broke up the sacred pillars, chopped down the Asherah poles, and tore down the high places and altars throughout Judah and Benjamin, as well as in Ephraim and Manasseh, to the last one. Then all the Israelites returned to their cities, each to his own possession.
NOTE: He did this in Judah AND in the Northern Kingdom! Remember David’s lesson? Ephraim and Manasseh = Israel = Northern 10 Tribes. He destroyed idol worship “to the last one” - completely!
When you live like this with God, you are bound to receive the blessing of God in your life:
2 Chronicles 31:20–21 CSB
Hezekiah did this throughout all Judah. He did what was good and upright and true before the Lord his God. He was diligent in every deed that he began in the service of God’s temple, in the instruction and the commands, in order to seek his God, and he prospered.
Those blessings may not be things on this earth, but you can count on God rewarding those who diligently seek him! Perhaps one of the most amazing blessings is the way that God will use you to affect and infect others!
When you live this way, it affects others who will also want to live this way! In addition, it will be a blessing to God and can bring a blessing from God.
2 Chronicles 29:31 CSB
Hezekiah concluded, “Now you are consecrated to the Lord. Come near and bring sacrifices and thanksgiving offerings to the Lord’s temple.” So the congregation brought sacrifices and thanksgiving offerings, and all those with willing hearts brought burnt offerings.
Those with a willing heart give to the work of the Lord. The heart of Hezekiah was contagious! As he sought to bless God and live for Yahweh, so many of the people of Judah did the same.
Look at the other leaders:
2 Chronicles 30:27 CSB
Then the priests and the Levites stood to bless the people, and God heard them, and their prayer came into his holy dwelling place in heaven.
THIS IS HUGE! God has shunned the Northern Kingdom because of their arrogance. Now, because of the humble submission of Hezekiah, the priests, Levites and the Jews, God is please to listen. They went from the Temple doors being closed and the temple defiled to their prayers entering the dwelling place of God himself!
Now, this is the beginning of Hezekiah’s reign. Saul started out kinds OK. David started our OK, Solomon started out very strong. As we are reminded at the beginning of a new year, it is not hard to start strong, the challenge is what? To FINISH strong!
And, while no one bats 1000, we call can live in such a way that the vast majority of the times we are living up to that standard. Let’s flip back to the beginning of chapter 29 and catch what was said about Hezekiah:
2 Chronicles 29:2 CSB
He did what was right in the Lord’s sight just as his ancestor David had done.
Can I just say THAT is what we should want to be known for! The specific deeds we do, the way we treat others and the passion we have for God should all just be a pile of evidence that we lived in a way that pleases God.
We ought to desire to hear from our Father, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matt 25).