Then Hilkiah's son Eliakim the palace administrator, Shebna the scribe, and Asaph's son Joah the recorder, came to Hezekiah with their clothes torn, and they relayed to him the words of the Rab-shakeh.
I. HE PRETENDS TO BE DOING GOD'S WORK.
1. He ridicules their confidence in Egypt. Isaiah himself could hardly have warned them more strongly against the vanity of alliance with other nations. "Thou trustest upon the staff of this bruised reed, even upon Egypt" (ver. 21).
2. He censures Hezekiah for disrespect toward God. "If ye say unto me, We trust in the Lord God: is not this he whose high places and whose altars Hezekiah hath taken away?" (ver. 22). So Satan sometimes appears as an angel of light. Men of sin and worldliness sometimes show a remarkable interest in the Church of God.
3. He represents himself as having a commission frown God. "Am I now come up without the Lord against this place to destroy it? The Lord said to me, Go up against this land, and destroy it" (ver. 25). It is thus that sin constantly presents itself to men and women. It masks its real features. It presents itself in a religious garb. A debased theatre professes to be the teacher of morality. But for one whose life it has changed for the better, there are thousands whom it has changed for the worse. Perhaps we should be justified in going the length of Pollok, in his 'Course of Time,' and in saying, "It might do good, but never did." How many questionable practices defend themselves on the ground that they are sanctioned and encouraged by "religious" people?
II. HE MAKES LIGHT OF TRUST IN GOD. But soon the cloven foot appears. The tempter soon begins to wean the soul from that religion 'of whose interests he professes to be so jealous. See here the inconsistency of Rabshakeh's speech. He first of all made it appear that he was commissioned by God, and that therefore all their efforts to resist him would be futile. But now he proceeds to ridicule the idea of trusting to God's power. "Neither let Hezekiah make you trust in the Lord, saying, The Lord will surely deliver us" (ver. 30). "Hath any of the gods of the nations delivered at all his land out of the hand of the King of Assyria?" (vers. 33-35). So it is in the progress of sin. He who is led away by the allurements of the world and pleasure, first begins with pleasures which lie on the herder-land between the bad and the good. These are the pleasures or pursuits about which men say, "Oh! there is no harm in that." "No harm" is a very dangerous phrase. When we hear it, we may generally doubt its truth. It usually refers to pursuits or pleasures which are the stepping-stones to worse sins. Many a man crosses the bridge of "no harm," and enters forever the land of "no good." Let us never be induced to waver in our trust in God and obedience to him. His way is the way of safety and peace. There are many whose work seems to be like that of Rabshakeh - to weaken the trust of others in God, to diminish the respect of others for the Law of God. "Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven." Where God and conscience say to us, "You ought not," let not the tempter ever persuade us by saying, "You may."
III. HE MAKES FALSE PROMISES. How fair-spoken is Rabshakeh! How very alluring his promises! If the people of Jerusalem would only make an agreement with the King of Assyria by a present, then they would eat every man of his own vine and fig tree, until he would afterwards take them away to a land like their own land, "a land of corn and wine, a land of bread and vineyards, a land of oil olive and of honey, that ye may live and not die." In this specious way he held before them an attractive prospect. But it was as empty as the bubble in the summer breeze. It was the pleasant euphemism by which he sought to gloss over the prospect of conquest and captivity. So with the pleasures of sin. How bright and how attractive, to outward appearance, are the haunts of wickedness and vice! The bright lights of the gin-palace - how they allure its unhappy victims, often by the contrast with the dreariness and misery of their homes! What a pleasant prospect sin in various forms presents! But how terrible is the reality! How grim is the skeleton at the feast! "My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not." Such are the tempter's methods still. The thirty-sixth verse contains a very good suggestion as to the way of meeting temptation. "But the people held their peace, and answered him not a word; for the king's commandment was, saying, Answer him not." It is a wise rule not to parley with the tempter. If we pray, "Lead us not into temptation," then we ought to be careful not to put ourselves in temptation's way. - C.H.I.
And he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord.
Homilist.It is impossible to read these words without some surprise. First of all, we are surprised at the fact of a good king reigning over either of the kingdoms of the Israelites, and secondly we are surprised at the assertion made in the latter part of this verse, when the conclusion of the chapter appears to give it a direct and absolute contradiction. So far from Hezekiah prospering whithersoever he went, he is described as being assailed most bitterly by his enemies, insulted and besieged, and, in fact, all but utterly destroyed. We may, however, reconcile the statement with the recorded facts by remembering that, after all, the Almighty did not allow him to be utterly destroyed or entirely cast down. And not only so — the afflictions which came upon him and the straits into which he was led were really the results of his own folly, and only came to him when he forgot to trust in the Lord his God, and relied on his own strength. And these thoughts lead us back again to the fact brought before us in the text. We are taught thereby —
I. THAT THERE IS AN INTIMATE CONNECTION BETWEEN GOODNESS AND PROSPERITY. When Hezekiah served God he prospered, when he leaned on his own strength he did not. Real prosperity is only to be obtained in the service of God. A false tinsel may, for a moment, gild the course of the sinful. A momentary glamour of unholy light may flicker on their actions, but it soon will fade away. True stable advantage is only for the righteous. This is shown us —
1. In history. What has become of the long list of mighty kings and conquerors who have held the world in unrighteous sway? Their bodies have faded and the kingdoms crumbled to dust. But those who have been servants of God are now reigning in kingdoms of a brightness far exceeding any worldly kingdom. This is shown us —
2. In the lessons and examples of Scripture. So numerous are these that they will occur to all. Joseph is a striking instance of good, Ahab of evil. In the history of the kings we find that whenever any king turned away from his evil courses the kingdom prospered, to sink again to his lowest ebb when an evil ruler ascended the throne. David is ever repeating the same important truth. Our Lord tells us the same. "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you." This is shown us —
3. By our own personal experience. What does David say? "I have been young and now am old, yet saw I the righteous never forsaken or his seed begging bread." The longer we live the more we may discover that those who love God are no losers even in a worldly point of view. They not only have the promise of good things to come, but also have the blessings of the life that now is, far more often than is generally supposed.
II. THAT THIS CONNECTION BETWEEN GOOD AND PROSPERITY IS OWING TO THE PRESENCE AND INFLUENCE OF GOD. God was with Hezekiah, and it was God who made him to prosper in all that he did. We shall see the reasonableness of this fact if we remember —
1. That God is the only source of prosperity. He maketh rich and He alone. The cattle upon a thousand hills are His. All the gold and silver in the world are His. He can and will bestow them upon whom He will.
2. That God is the only source of protection. His knowledge and power and resources can and will be bestowed by Him in the protection of His people. It was so in the case of Hezekiah. How powerless were all the mighty hosts of his enemies to injure even a hair of his head so long as the shield of the Almighty was his protection!
3. That God is the only source of happiness. Even prosperity does not always bring happiness. It may if it is sanctified. It is God alone who can sanctify. And He can give happiness in this world and joy in the next. Thus, as God Himself is good, He bestows rewards upon those who partake of His nature. Righteousness itself is the highest form of prosperity, and the noblest attainment of human nature, because it enlists infinite power on our behalf. Conclusion. — What a blessed lot is that of him who has the Lord for his God through Jesus Christ our Saviour! May we all strive to do that which is right in His sight, and so we shall reap the promised reward.
I. THE WORST OF FATHERS HAVE SOMETIMES LEFT BEHIND THEM THE BEST OF SONS. It was so with Ahaz. But no thanks are due to him. His influence, example, and life were all such as seemed likely to fill the mind of his son with that which was not good. Yet the son was one of the best of kings, and a good man.
II. THE SONS OF BAD FATHERS SUFFER SOME LOSS THROUGH PATERNAL WICKEDNESS AND FOLLY. This does not need much illustration, for, unfortunately, we have too many instances before our eyes almost daily. It is patent to us all that the iniquity of the father is visited upon the children. This is true both in body, estate, and character. We suffer for what our parents were and did, and can't help it. I dare say many of you have lived long enough to believe that many of your weaknesses and much of your poverty are the result, not of your own profligacy and extravagance, but of those who have preceded you. Few of you will question the soundness of my conclusions on these two. You may be disposed to do a little when I say that the son suffers in character because of the bad father.
III. IN THE CASE OF AHAZ, WE SEE HOW GOD SOMETIMES SETS ASIDE THE NOTIONS OF MEN AND SELECTS FROM UNLIKELY SCHOOLS THE INSTRUMENTS WITH WHICH HE WILL ACCOMPLISH GREAT REFORMS AND BRING GREAT BLESSINGS. Hezekiah, reared in the house of Ahaz, became a reformer of the abuses of his nation, restored prosperity to it, and brought the people back to the neglected Temple and the all but forgotten God. The son of an idolatrous king, he became the champion of true religion. Here we get a principle of widest application and illustration. The Bible abounds with it, and our experience too.
IV. I NOTICE THAT HERE WE HAVE A LESSON OF THE MOTHER'S INFLUENCE. Did you notice with what care the sacred writer tells us the name of the mother of Hezekiah, and whose daughter she was? "Abi," or Abijah, "the daughter of Zachariah." It is not often you find it so stated in the Scriptures. Are we to conclude that Hezekiah was the good son mainly because he was the son of a good woman? Be that as it may in this case, the mother's influence is unbounded. It begins with the babe, and never ends. Beecher said, "A babe is a mother's anchor. She cannot swing far from her moorings." And, we may add, the babe cannot swing far from its mother. Her heart is a schoolroom.
(C. Leach, D. D.)
(J. Parker, D. D.)
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