Hezekiah trusted in the LORD, the God of Israel. No king of Judah was like him, either before him or after him.
he trusted in the Lord God of Israel; so that after him was none like him among the kings of Judah, nor any that were before him" (ver. 5). What was the consequence? Just what the consequence will be to all who put their trust in the Lord and walk in his ways: "The Lord was with him; and he prospered whithersoever he went forth."
I. TRUST IN GOD LEADS TO PERSONAL RELIGION. Hezekiah's faith in God was not a mere idle profession. It did not consist in the mere belief of certain historical facts. It did not consist in the mere assent to certain doctrinal truths. It did not consist in the mere observance of certain outward forms and ceremonies. It was a real faith. It extended to his whole life. "He did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that David his father did" (ver. 3). "He clave unto the Lord, and departed not from following him, but kept his commandments, which the Lord commanded Moses" (ver. 6). Suck is true religion. Religion is the dedication of the heart and life to God. A man may differ from me in creed, and in the way he worships the same God; but if he loves the Lord Jesus Christ, and serves God in sincerity, he is a truly religious man. "In every nation he that feareth God, and. worketh righteousness, is accepted with him." How expressive and instructive are some of these quaint old phrases! "He clave unto the Lord." Hezekiah set before him one great aim at the commencement of his life, and that was to please God. Whatever it might cost, he made up his mind to keep close to God. It is a grand resolution for the young to make. It is a grand aim to keep before them in life. But Hezekiah had not merely a goal at which he aimed. He had certain well-defined lines along which he reached that goal. He knew that, to please God, he must keep his commandments. He did not set up his own will in opposition to the will of God, king though he was. He did not dispute the wisdom of God's commands. He felt that God knew much better than he did the path of wisdom and of duty. This is one of the best evidences of true faith - of real trust in God. We may not see the reason for a command of God, but let us obey it. A parent will give his child many commands, for which it is quite unnecessary, perhaps undesirable, that the child should know the reason. Obedience based on faith is one of the first principles of life. Here, then, was the beginning of Hezekiah's success in life. It began with the state of his own heart. He trusted in God. That trust in God molded his whole character, and character is the foundation of all that is permanent in life.
II. TRUST IN GOD LEADS TO PRACTICAL EFFORT. Hezekiah very soon showed by his conduct that he was determined to serve God. He did not leave the people long in doubt as to which side he was on. In the very first year of his reign, and in the first month of it, he opened the doors of the temple of the Lord, which his father had closed, and repaired them (2 Chronicles 29:3). As soon as the temple was set in proper order, he caused the priests and the Levites to commence at once the public service of God. Then, in the second month, he issued a proclamation throughout all the land of Israel and Judah, inviting the people to come to Jerusalem to keep the Passover in the house of the Lord. What a festival and time of rejoicing that was! For seven days they kept the Feast of Unleavened Bread with great gladness, and the Levites and the priests praised the Lord day by day, singing with loud instruments unto the Lord. Peace offerings were offered; confession of sin was made, not to the priests, but to the Lord God of their fathers; and the presence of the Lord was so manifested among the large congregation, that when the seven days of the Passover were ended, the whole assembly unanimously agreed to keep seven days more. "So there was great joy in Jerusalem: for since the time of Solomon the son of David King of Israel there was not the like in Jerusalem" The effect of the service was electrical When the Passover was finished, the people went out to all the cities of Judah, and brake the images in pieces, and cut down the groves, and threw down the high places and the altars until they had utterly destroyed them all. In all this work of destroying the symbols of idolatry, Hezekiah the king took a leading part. Even the brazen serpent which Moses had made did not escape the destroying hand. It was an interesting relic of Israel's journeying in the wilderness, and of their wonderful deliverance by God. But it had become a snare to the people. It had become an object of worship to some, as relics and images become to many professing Christians. They worshipped it and burnt incense to it. Hezekiah was not the man to destroy anything that was a help to true devotion. He encouraged the Levites to use the trumpets, the harp, and the psaltery, to stir up and stimulate the singing of the congregation, and to render to God a hearty and glorious service of praise. But he saw that the brazen serpent had become an idol in itself, and was leading the thoughts of the people away from the true Object of worship. So be broke it in pieces. All honor to the determined reformer, who destroyed everything that had become dishonoring to God! All honor to those stern reformers who from time to time have broken in pieces the symbols of idolatry in the Church of Christ! Would that in the Church of Rome today some such reformer would arise, who would denounce and overthrow its image-worship and Mariolatry! Such was the work of reformation which Hezekiah accomplished among his people. It shows how God honors those who are determined to serve him, and how he blesses immediate and decided action. Hezekiah might well have hesitated in this work. The whole country was given over to idolatry. He might have dreaded a rebellion. In some parts of the country he got little sympathy in his efforts to restore the ancient religion. When the messengers inviting the people to the Passover passed through the country of Ephraim and Manasseh and. Zebulon, the people there laughed them to scorn and mocked them. Such manifestations of popular feeling might have caused Hezekiah to falter in his decision. He might have thought that he would introduce his reforms gradually. But no! the idolatry was wrong, and it must be put down at once. The worship of the true God was right, and it must at once be resumed, Hezekiah was right. Had he waited, had he begun his reign by tolerating idolatry for a while, he would have found it much harder to overthrow afterwards. Is there not here a lesson for us all? If you see the right loath clearly pointed out to you, resolve to walk in it, though all men should be against you. Remember the brave words of Athanasius. He was mocked at for his zeal for the truth. Some one said to him, "Athanasius, all the world is against you; ' then said he, "Athanasius is against the world." Follow the light of conscience and of duty. What matter though you may incur danger or worldly loss by so doing?
"And because right is right, to follow right III. TRUST IN GOD LEADS TO SUCCESS IN LIFE. "And the Lord was with him; and he prospered whithersoever he went forth" (ver. 7). He was victorious over his enemies. He threw off the yoke of the King of Assyria, and drove back the Philistines, who had made great inroads during the previous reign. When the people honored God, their God honored them and gave them victories over their enemies. As a reward of Hezekiah's faith and faithfulness, God gave him much riches and honor. Hezekiah had trusted God at the beginning of his reign. He had done God's will, though he did not know what it might cost him, and before he was established on the throne. And God did not disappoint his trust, but made him greater and more honored than all the kings of Judah before or after his time. Even in a temporal point of view, no one ever loses by trusting God and doing what is right. Christ promises that every one who is willing to give up every earthly possession for his sake will receive an hundredfold more in this life, and in the world to come life everlasting. We saw, above, the dangers of prosperity. Hezekiah's career shows us what is the safeguard of prosperity. "The Lord was with him." Where that can be said, there is no danger in prosperity. In the godless man, prosperity is often a curse. It hardens his heart. He thinks that he is rich and increased in goods and has need of nothing. But the prosperity of the Christian may be a great blessing to himself and others. Take with you into your business, into your social relations, into every plan you make and every work you undertake, the presence of God, the fear of God, the commandments of God; and then there will be no fear of your success. Trust in the Lord. Put your eternal interests into the hands of Jesus. He is worthy of your trust. They that trust themselves to him shall never perish. Trust in the Lord, that it may lead you to personal religion, to practical effort, to success in life. "Set thou thy trust upon the Lord.
III. TRUST IN GOD LEADS TO SUCCESS IN LIFE. "And the Lord was with him; and he prospered whithersoever he went forth" (ver. 7). He was victorious over his enemies. He threw off the yoke of the King of Assyria, and drove back the Philistines, who had made great inroads during the previous reign. When the people honored God, their God honored them and gave them victories over their enemies. As a reward of Hezekiah's faith and faithfulness, God gave him much riches and honor. Hezekiah had trusted God at the beginning of his reign. He had done God's will, though he did not know what it might cost him, and before he was established on the throne. And God did not disappoint his trust, but made him greater and more honored than all the kings of Judah before or after his time. Even in a temporal point of view, no one ever loses by trusting God and doing what is right. Christ promises that every one who is willing to give up every earthly possession for his sake will receive an hundredfold more in this life, and in the world to come life everlasting. We saw, above, the dangers of prosperity. Hezekiah's career shows us what is the safeguard of prosperity. "The Lord was with him." Where that can be said, there is no danger in prosperity. In the godless man, prosperity is often a curse. It hardens his heart. He thinks that he is rich and increased in goods and has need of nothing. But the prosperity of the Christian may be a great blessing to himself and others. Take with you into your business, into your social relations, into every plan you make and every work you undertake, the presence of God, the fear of God, the commandments of God; and then there will be no fear of your success. Trust in the Lord. Put your eternal interests into the hands of Jesus. He is worthy of your trust. They that trust themselves to him shall never perish. Trust in the Lord, that it may lead you to personal religion, to practical effort, to success in life.
"Set thou thy trust upon the Lord.
1. Hezekiah was one of Judah's best kings. He is classed with David and Josiah. "All, except David and Ezekias and Josias, were defective" (Ecclus. 49:4). In his zeal for God he "brake in pieces the brasen serpent" which had become an object of superstition, and sought to carry into effect the Mosaic prohibition of heathen sanctuaries (Exodus 23:24; Exodus 34:13). Moreover, "he removed the high places," thus showing the sweeping nature of his reformation. These "high places" were "local sanctuaries," which some good kings had tolerated, contenting themselves with uprooting the worship of false gods; for at these local shrines there was, it is supposed, some sort of worship of Jehovah carried on, which was to satisfy the religious instinct without going up to Jerusalem. It shows Hezekiah's thoroughness and determination.
He trusted in the Lord God of Israel.
1. He "TRUSTED in the Lord." Now, people sometimes say that there is nothing about faith in the Old Testament, and that it is only in the New that we find such strong emphasis laid upon it, as the root and measure of all kinds of goodness. But that is a pure delusion. There never has been but one way to God, and the man that wrote the Epistle to the Hebrews, whoever he was, had seen a great deal deeper into the genius of the Old Testament religion than some very wise men of modern times, when he had not the smallest hesitation in pointing his finger to all that army of witnesses in the past and saying, "These all died in faith." One other remark may be made about this "trust," which is the basement story of Hezekiah's character, and that is that the word which is here employed, like all the Old Testament expressions for spiritual and mental acts and things, has a very distinct material signification, and is in itself a lesson and a picture. For the word employed, and rightly employed here, for trusting in the Lord means, literally, leaning upon something, as one might do upon a strong stay. We may also note that the Old Testament sometimes speaks of trusting to, sometimes of trusting on, sometimes of trusting in, the Lord, and sometimes simply of trusting the Lord, just as the New has a similar variety of expression in reference to the act of faith. These variations indicate varying aspects of that act, considered as a going forth of heart and will towards their object, or a repose of heart and will upon, or an abiding of heart and will in, God or Christ, which would prove profitable to dwell upon, but which I can only indicate here. If you will duly ponder the metaphor which is inherent in the word of some feeble or lame man leaning upon a strong staff, or some tottering one leaning his hand upon a rock, and resting all his weight upon that, I think you will understand a great deal more about faith, and what it means, than if you had read a whole library of theological discussion. It is not believing, but it is the act of leaning on what we believe in. It is not your head but your heart and your will that trust. There must be, of course, knowledge before there can be faith, but there was never a greater or more disastrous mistake in Christendom than that which says that the essential part of Christian faith is correct belief. That is the beginning of it no doubt, but there may be plenty of incorrectness in the belief, and yet if there is the earnest reality in the leaning then that trust is fight. Only lean hard. A lame man does not lay a light arm on his crutch. You are weak enough to need a very strong support. Let us learn from Hezekiah when it is the time to lean hardest. When Sennacherib's insulting letter came to him he was sore troubled, but he did not content himself with unavailing sorrow. He turned to his counsellors, but he did not content himself with bespeaking human advice and human help. He had built the walls of Jerusalem anew, and made extensive and wise arrangement in prospect of a siege, but he did not rely on these things. What did he do with the letter? He went and spread it before the Lord. Is that what you do with the disagreeable letters that come to yon, with the difficulties and annoyances, great or small, with the perplexities and the burdens, whether they be burdens of sorrow or of work that come to you? Take them into God's house, and spread them out before Him. Sennacherib's letter does not look half so bad when it is spread out before the cherubim as it does when we read it in some corner away from God. If a man will lean on God, the unseen Helper, he must make up his mind to have plenty of scoffs and ridicule from people that have no notion of a Helper that is not visible and material. Do you remember how the messenger of the King of Assyria came to Hezekiah, or, rather, to his servants, and taunted them with the very fact that they were trusting? "Speak ye now to Hezekiah, thus saith the great King, the King of Assyria. What confidence is this wherein thou trustest? On whom dost thou trust that thou rebellest against me? Now, behold! thou trustest on the staff of this bruised reed but if ye say to me, We trust in the Lord our God... hath any of the gods of the nations delivered at all his land out of the hand of the King of Assyria? Where are the gods of Hamath?" and so on, and so on. Yes; and then "it came to pass that night that the angel of the Lord went out... and when they arose early in the morning, behold they were all dead corpses." So was vindicated the faith that looked so foolish, so presumptuous, with so little to build upon, and so little to warrant it. Did you ever notice the contrast between what came to Hezekiah when he prayed in the house of his God, and what came to Sennacherib when he prayed in the house of his God? "Hezekiah spread the letter before the Lord," and he received the triumphant answer from Isaiah's lips which was the flash of the lightning, followed by the roll of the thunder in the death of the host. That was what faith got when it prayed in the house of the Lord. What did the other man get when he prayed in the house of his God? "It came to pass, as he was worshipping in the house of Nisroch his god, that Adrammelech and Sharezer, his sons, smote him with the sword." That is what the man gets that bows down to idols, and puts his trust in a refuge of lies.
3. "He clave unto the Lord;" that is the stage that follows on faith. Now, that is another picturesque expression. Let me just run over in a sentence or two, three connections in which it is employed in Scripture in order that you may see what it means. It is the same word which is used to express the adherence of the bone to the skin, or to express the way in which a tightly-braced girdle sticks to the loins of a man, or to express the way in which, when one is burning with thirst, the tongue adheres to the roof of the mouth. And when you come into the region of its reference to men's relation to men, it is the word which is used for the closest, sweetest, sacredest of all human relationships. "For this cause shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife." It is the word that is employed to express the loyalty of obedient subjects to their king. It is the word which is used in that tenderest of all stories to contrast the clinging love of the one daughter-in-law with the less self-abandoning affection of the other. "Orphah kissed her... Ruth clave unto her." Now, that is what faith should lead us to do. Loyalty as of subjects to a king; love as of husband and wife; as of Ruth and Naomi, the close adherence as of the girdle braced round the loins of a man. For in the words there lie, not only these thoughts of close adhesion by mind and will and heart, but also the thought of a vigorous resistance to all the separating agencies, which are so busy in the lives of every one of us, and find their allies in the hearts of us all. Now, lastly, the top-stone of the whole fabric is obedience, which will follow upon such close communion with, and trust in, God. There are two great corruptions of Christianity; the one which attaches all importance to the initial act of trust, and to the inward experience of the devout soul, is strong in spiritual emotions and very Weak in daily righteousness. There is a strange connection between fervent emotion of a spiritual kind and a shady life in regard to common virtues. So do you take care to avoid a Christianity which is all faith and fellowship, and not obedience. And, on the other hand, do not try to begin at the roof of the house, and build garrets and top-floor first — to have a righteous life without the substratum, the faith which is the basement and the fellowship with God which comes between faith and obedience.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
2. But Hezekiah's greatness shines out still more vividly in the hour of trial. Jerusalem was threatened by Assyrian forces. Their generals were at the gates, demanding submission. He stood alone, and yet not alone, for God was his "Refuge and Strength, a very present Help in trouble"; "He trusted in the Lord God of Israel," and he did not trust in vain. Let us first note some of the grounds upon which this confidence in God is based; and, secondly, mark some of its features.
I. SOME GROUNDS UPON WHICH TRUST IN GOD IS BASED.
1. The first is the goodness of God. Thus moral theology places trust in God in connection with hope, and not directly with faith.
2. Another ground of trust in God is His faithfulness to His promises. "He is faithful that promised" (Hebrews 10:23). In order to impress upon us this truth, God confirmed His word "by an oath," as men when they bind themselves more strictly to a compact (Hebrews 6.). Goodness, when combined with almightiness and fidelity, affords a triple basis upon which to rest.
3. Experience may be added to the former. Thus David, when he drew near to the giant, recollected past deliverances. "The Lord," he said, "that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear," etc. (1 Samuel 17:37).
II. SOME FEATURES OF THIS CONFIDENCE MUST NOW BE NOTED.
1. To have confidence in God, it must be entire. In foul weather as well as fair, in the storm when Christ is asleep, as well as on the land when He is awake. Christ tested this confidence in the case of His disciples, and He does so still. It must extend both to temporal as well as spiritual things, as we are reminded in to-day's Gospel — to the necessaries of life, as well as to graces and gifts from heaven. This was laid down clearly in the definition of trust at the beginning. Such trust, it need hardly be said, must not be a cause of idleness, but a stimulant of effort: "God helps those who help themselves." Hezekiah knew that; and so went into the house of the Lord, and spread "the letter before the Lord" which the Assyrian foe had sent him, and prayed earnestly to the Lord.
2. Trust, too, must be prompt. To ask for Divine help when all things have been tried in vain, savours rather of despair than of confidence. "Seek ye first the kingdom of God," in point of time as well as order, and turn to all else as means which are only of avail when they have the Divine blessing.
1. The whole subject is so eminently practical that the lessons are obvious. All must have some object in which to confide. Our trust must be, not in self, not in others, but in God. It was to Him Hezekiah at once turned in his terrible need.
2. To kindle this spirit of confidence, let us meditate upon the Divine goodness, the fidelity of God to His promises, and call up remembrances of His past mercies.
3. Finally, let this trust extend to all circumstances and difficulties whether of soul or body; and we shall find, like the good king, that "the salvation of the righteous is of the Lord," and "He is their strength in the time of trouble" (Psalm 37:39).
1. To grasp still more firmly the fundamental truth of Christianity — the union of the human nature with the Divine nature in the One person of the Word, or Son of God, who for our sakes "became poor."
2. To learn the lesson of detachment from all external possessions, after the pattern of His life on earth.
3. To seek by every means in our power to obtain the "true riches" which Christ, "through His poverty," has purchased for us.
4. So to use "the mammon of unrighteousness," if we have it, as to lay up "treasure in heaven"; for "where your treasure is there win your heart be also" (Matthew 7:20, 21).
(W. H. Hutchings, M. A.)
I. TRUST IN GOD IS THE VIRTUOUS SOURCE OF CHARACTER. A character of such sterling worth and paramount influence, which, after the lapse of ages, is so immortal, drew its vital force from the Divine source. The first trait in his life, and one which claims the preeminence, is virtue. It is the undying element which gave stability, vitality, and nobility to his deportment. Moral purity can only flow from one source — trust in God. The language of that trust is, "Be ye holy, for I am holy." His thoughts, his motives, his desires, and his acts were pure, because he communed with God. You cannot build a character without virtue, and virtue is impossible without faith. The brightest intellect without virtue is only a meteor that will be lost in the darkness of its own sin-clouds. The most loving heart without virtue is only an electric spark which kills where it intended to give life. The highest endowments of life — birth, education, society, wealth, and friends — like the branches of a tree, will soon wither if the worm of impurity is at the root. Lives, otherwise noble, have come to the ground with a crash because there was no holiness in thought. The first act of trust is to give our own hearts to God, to be washed from sin. The experience which arises from this act leads us to seek, not a momentary discharge from guilt, but a life of perpetual purity. The only character worth having is that built on God.
II. TRUST IN GOD IS THE TRUE INSPIRATION OF CHARACTER. When Hezekiah came to the throne the people had no fixed religious views. Their hold upon the land was precarious, for they owed a stricter allegiance to a foreign king than to their own, The court was disorganised, the priesthood was neglected, and the people were intellectually and morally degraded. Reform was difficult; to bring back the hearts of the people to the God of their fathers was a great task. Trust in God as a source of action is the universal experience of the Church. That faith is a receptive medium of grace and power is evident, but it is power to be set forth in action. As rest resuscitates the strength of the body, so faith derives fresh supplies of grace from Christ Jesus. This state of comparative passivity, however, is but a link which unites the inner energies of the spiritual life to the corresponding outward activities. Soul-refreshing meditation and prayer result in wisdom and power; those who trust in God are partakers of the Divine nature. Faith lifts them up into participation of infinite wisdom and strength.
III. TRUST IN GOD IS THE SOUL'S STAY IN TRIAL. Trials bear either directly on our persons or on our circumstances.
IV. TRUST IN GOD IS THE FINALITY OF CHARACTER. Hezekiah slept with his fathers after he had fulfilled his mission and finished the work the Lord had given him to do. His life, like a graceful sentence, ended with a full stop. On what foundation are you building? The best materials will not make a safe building if built on the sand; your most sincere desires and efforts will not stand unless built on the Rock. The rock is Christ. Character is everything, and Christ is everything to character. Trust in God.
(T. Davies, M. A.)
Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take,
The clouds you so much dread
Are big with mercy, and shall break
In blessings on your head.
All the mill hands joined in singing the verse, amidst deep emotion.
I. HEZEKIAH AVAILED HIMSELF OF THE FORCE OF THE DIVINE RIGHTEOUSNESS WORKING IN THE WORLD, AND SO STRUCK THE SECRET OF A SUCCESSFUL LIFE, BY A DISTINCT CHOICE OF GOD. "But he clave unto the Lord." And he did it notwithstanding all sorts of oppositions. His father, Ahaz, was one of the worst kings who ever sat upon the throne of Judah. Hezekiah's heredity was against him. Oriental and degrading idolatry was the atmosphere enwrapping his earlier years. His father's court was abominably corrupt. But "he clave unto the Lord." The first step in a genuinely successful life is Hezekiah's step — a distinct, self-surrendering, irreversible choice of God in the face of whatever oppositions.
II. Hezekiah CARRIED OUT HIS DECISION. Having decided to cleave to the Lord, he kept cleaving to Him by constant action according to his decision (2 Chronicles 29., 30.). Having come to the throne, he immediately begins to rule in the fashion a man cleaving to the Lord should. In every way he ranged his influence on the Lord's side. There was no waiting in Hezekiah; no putting off to a more politic or convenient season. What action his decision for God called for, that action got quickly begun.
III. Hezekiah maintained UNWAVERING TRUST IN THE LORD TO WHOM HE CLAVE. Read the account of Hezekiah's trust in the crisis of the Sennacherib invasion (Isaiah 36., 37.). And the Lord to whom he clave honoured his trust. To be. sure Hezekiah made some slips. But it is no wonder the Lord to whom he clave brought him to such shiningly successful end as this.
(W. Hoyt, D. D.)
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
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