Three Stages in the Devout Life
2 Kings 18:5-6
He trusted in the LORD God of Israel; so that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor any that were before him.…

This is the writer's summing up of the character of Hezekiah, before he enters on the details of his reign. It is a lofty and unconditioned eulogium, making no reference to faults. There are no shadows in the picture, and, of course, in so far it may be taken to be a too favourable likeness. But that is the way that God judges, about men, by the general, drift of their lives, and He does not grudge to praise them.

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.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: He trusted in the LORD God of Israel; so that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor any that were before him.

WEB: He trusted in Yahweh, the God of Israel; so that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor [among them] that were before him.

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