Hezekiah, a king of the southern kingdom of Judah, was an “Israelite indeed.” His life and activities are recorded in 2 Kings 18-20, 2 Chronicles 29-32 and Isaiah 36-39. Hezekiah began his reign at 25 years of age, and he reigned for 29 years. Though he was the son of the wicked king Ahaz, he had a good mother. When Hezekiah took the throne at his father’s death, he had been well instructed and thoroughly consecrated to the Lord. He immediately began to inaugurate reforms to restore the true worship of the Lord in Judah. Hezekiah’s first public work was to open and prepare the temple of the Lord that had been neglected. He employed the Levites for that work, and when the cleaning of the temple was complete he offered a sin offering unto the Lord.
The Passover Restored
With the Passover approaching Hezekiah desired that it be celebrated properly by all of Israel, for very few had kept it previously, and those who did, had kept it imperfectly. But more preparation time was required, so it was celebrated on the 14th of the second month. Special messengers were sent to invite all Israelites to worship the Lord at Jerusalem. The timing seemed to be favorable for the 10 tribes, for they were already going into captivity. But Hezekiah’s messengers were laughed at, though many representatives from five of the tribes responded favorably.
But in Judah the invitation was well received. In fact, no such Passover had been kept since the days of King Solomon, 250 years previously. An additional week of celebration was even added. But the revival did not stop with the Passover. The people were zealous for the true worship of the Lord, so they supported the priests and Levites who maintained the sacrifices. The movement begun extended its efforts against every form of idolatry throughout Judah, including even the 10 tribes. The idols were destroyed, and the obscene high places that had been dedicated to the worship of Baal were cut down, resulting in the people and the king receiving great earthly blessings. Storehouses were even built to receive all the tithes and offerings.
Years later Hezekiah experienced severe trials which developed and manifested his faith and the Lord’s responses to his trust and prayers. The Assyrian king, Sennacherib, had invaded the northern kingdom and carried its people captive. Eight years later he determined to invade the kingdom of Judah. The Assyrians had conquered other nations, and they were bent upon conquering Egypt and becoming a universal empire. Judah was the last nation on the route to Egypt. Sennacherib sent letters to Hezekiah, boasting of Assyria’s power and of all their conquests. He declared that Judah’s trust in the Lord was vain, that other nations had trusted in their gods, but they had all failed; and that Israel’s God could do nothing more for them than the other gods for their people.
Hezekiah tried to placate his adversary by paying an annual tribute, and he even sent Sennacherib a present of great value. He erred in this, for had he trusted in the Lord he would have avoided many trials. But as the situation became dire his faith increased. He and the prophet Isaiah joined together in prayer. Isaiah sent the Lord’s response to Hezekiah, which read: “Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, That which thou hast prayed to me against Sennacherib king of Assyria I have heard.” Hezekiah sent the rest of the message to Sennacherib, rebuking his boasting: “Thus saith the LORD, Be not afraid of the words that thou hast heard, wherewith the servants of the king of Assyria have blasphemed me. Behold, I will send a blast upon him, and he shall hear a rumour, and shall return to his own land; and I will cause him to fall by the sword in his own land.” Catastrophe struck Sennacherib’s army immediately, for 185,000 died in one night by pestilence. Years later Sennacherib was slain by two of his own sons.
Lessons from Hezekiah’s Life
We may gain valuable lessons from the life of Hezekiah. No matter how great the evil which assails us, a proper faith will look up to God and rely upon His promises of aid, rather than seek to compromise as Hezekiah did at first. The Lord chastened Hezekiah for his good, and He will chasten us when necessary for our good.