In God I Trust
2 Kings 18:1-20
“He held fast to the Lord and did not stop following him…” vs. 6
Build Me A Son, O Lord
This week I had a friend show up at me office and as he walked in he had this big smile. I said “Hey Pete, what’s up?” He said, “It’s a boy.” “Huh?” I said. “It’s a boy!” he said. “Oh< congratulations,” I said, His wife is pregnant and he had just come from the doctor and found out the baby is a boy. It took me back to when my daughters were born. Everyone assumed because of my sports enthusiasm and such that I wanted a boy. It really didn’t matter to me and I was so excited to have a girl; two girls! Girls can wrap their dads around their little finger with just the blink of the eyes.
I was looking through some Father’s Day stories when I came across this one from General Douglas MacArthur. When I think of him I think of a man’s man. A rough, determined, hard nosed, matter of fact kind of guy that doesn’t make excuses, doesn’t pussyfoot around and always has his nose to the grindstone. I was really surprised when I came across this writing from him; mainly because it has a lot of emotion, depth, feeling, and some tenderness too. So I thought I would share it with you.
Build me a son, O Lord, who will be strong enough to know when he is weak, and brave enough to face himself when he is afraid; one who will be proud and unbending in honest defeat, and humble and gentle in victory. Build me a son whose wishbone will not be where his backbone should be; a son who will know Thee and that to know himself is the foundation stone of knowledge. Lead him, I pray, not in the path of ease and comfort, but under the stress and spur of difficulties and challenge. Here let him learn to stand up in the storm; here let him learn compassion for those who fail. Build me a son whose heart will be clean, whose goal will be high; a son who will master himself before he seeks to master other men; one who will learn to laugh, yet never forget how to weep; one who will reach into the future, yet never forget the past. And after all these things are his, add, I pray, enough of a sense of humor, so that he may always be serious, yet never take himself too seriously. Give him humility, so that he may always remember the simplicity of greatness, the open mind of true wisdom, the meekness of true strength. Then I, his father, will dare to whisper, “I have not lived in vain.”
-General Douglas MacArthur
Isn’t that a great quote. No matter how many times I read it I would still never guess that he was the one who said it. But, from reading it, I found a new appreciation for him. Today we are going to read about another man who had some similar characteristics.
2 Kings 2:1-8
In the third year of Hoshea son of Elah king of Israel, Hezekiah son of Ahaz king of Judah began to reign. 2 He was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem twenty-nine years. His mother’s name was Abijah daughter of Zechariah. 3 He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, just as his father David had done. 4 He removed the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles. He broke into pieces the bronze snake Moses had made, for up to that time the Israelites had been burning incense to it. (It was called Nehushtan.) 5 Hezekiah trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him. 6 He held fast to the Lord and did not stop following him; he kept the commands the Lord had given Moses. 7 And the Lord was with him; he was successful in whatever he undertook. He rebelled against the king of Assyria and did not serve him. 8 From watchtower to fortified city, he defeated the Philistines, as far as Gaza and its territory.
An Important Juncture
Israel had a long line of kings who didn’t follow the Lord. Since the end of Solomon’s reign when the kingdom split in two, most of the kings had turned from following God and were worshipping pagan gods. It was said of many that “they did not do what was right in the eyes of the Lord and follow in the ways of David.” Since the fall of the Northern kingdom, it seemed that maybe Israel had run its course and was about to become extinct as a nation. Hezekiah has a decision, continue on in the ways of those before him or head in a different direction.
Note: We face important junctures too and we have to decide if we are going to follow in the ways of those before us or head in a new direction.
Hezekiah had to step up in a big way at a very important juncture of Jewish history. The northern kingdom fell to the Assyrians in the fourth year of his reign in the south, when the king of Assyria marched against Samaria and laid siege to it. This third attack that fell Israel (2 Ki 15:29, 16:9) materialized because Assyria discovered that Israel was asking Egypt for help and had stopped paying tribute (2 Ki 17:4). The siege lasted three long years before the Assyrians finally took it and captured Samaria in Hezekiah’s sixth year, in 722 B.C. (2 Kings 18:9-10). Not only did the Assyrians deport her citizens, they married the locals to create the despised Samaritan race. Now the Assyrians were right at Hezekiah’s door and in his face.
Son of Ahaz
What made Hezekiah’s reform so noteworthy was the breakthrough he made. He was the son of one of Judah’s most wicked kings, king Ahaz. Ahaz had given in to the Assyrians. He had been paying tribute to them. That is basically saying he was paying them o ff to stay away and protect them if someone else tried to attack them. Ahaz had also turned to foreign gods and was worshipping Molech, Baal, and others and practicing the rituals of those religions. Ahaz was the first southern king to offer sacrifices and burned incense at the high places; If that was not enough he offered sacrifices and burned incense on the hilltops and under every spreading tree (2 Kings 16:4). Ahaz also was the one who got Judah into hot water in the first place when he asked Assyria for help (16:7) when Syria and Israel attacked. The account in 2 Chronicles was more blunt. Ahaz was the only king with the “most unfaithful” label. Listen to what 2 Kings says about him, verse 2-3:
“He did not do what was right in the eyes of the Lord his God. He walked in the ways of the kings of Israel and even sacrificed his son in the fire, following the detestable ways of the nations the Lord had driven out before the Israelites.” 2 Kings 16:2-3
Hezekiah was not next in line to the throne. No, he was second. But he had the unfortunate —- of watching his older brother sacrificed to a god. That had to be terrifying and leave him feeling very uncomfortable. What if his dad decided to sacrifice him next? He was living in an unstable environment and probably in a lot of fear.
Creating A Godly Legacy
This year we are studying some lesser know people in the Bible. I don’t know about you but I can never keep track of all the kings of Israel; and I even studied it in school. But Hezekiah is one king that stands out. He was different, in fact, the Bible tells us that there was no king like him in Israel since the division of the kingdom, either before or after him. He could have chosen to follow in line with what every king before him did. He could have chosen to be a victim. But he made new choices, different choices, bold choices. It says of him in verse 3:
“He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, just as his father David had done” vs. 3
I love the way the verse reads because it says he followed in the ways of his father DAVID not Ahaz. His legacy was going to be built on his great, great, great, great, etc. grandfather who was a good and upright man not on his immediate father who was a man of immoral character and ungodly. I think from Hezekiah we discover how we can create a Godly legacy and the steps to do that and that is an important thing for us to look at on Father’s Day.
1. Get Rid Of The Ungodly Influences
First, let’s take note that Hezekiah recognized that God was God and that in order to create a Godly legacy he needed to get rid of the ungodly influences that surrounded him. Verse 4:
“He removed the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles. He broke into pieces the bronze snake Moses had made, for up to that time the Israelites had been burning incense to it.” vs. 4
Life is difficult and it’s hard to stay on track, especially with all the “stuff” that is around us and tries to influence. He saw his dad and his double mindedness and that he was loyal to one thing but to many gods. Hezekiah recognized the need to be focused and loyal and that playing both sides of the track doesn’t work. He takes a bold move. One that would upset people. Those religions had their gods and temples and temple workers and a whole economy built around them. They would have been pretty upset that Hezekiah was taking away their livelihood and their “things.” But he was bold in getting rid of all the ungodly influences that were around probably despite the public outcry.
Question: What are the ungodly influences around you that you need to remove? Or are you thinking you are strong enough to resist them and that you can handle it? Are you just tempting fate? And, think about this, those influences could be hurting you or even hurting those around you, those you care about and they might need a strong, bold Godly man to help remove them so they are not influence by them.
2. Be A Man of Faith
Now that might seem a bit negative but let’s look at the positive side now. The second thing to decide is to be a man of faith. To create a Godly legacy that others can look at as a good influence and a good role model. Hezekiah shows us three things he did that we can do as well to be a man of faith.
A. Start with Humility
First, he was a man who wasn’t afraid to humble himself. In 2 Kings 19 Israel is in a dire situation. The northern kingdom has fallen and Assyria is banging at their door. Their trapped and seemingly have no way out. Much of this was because Hezekiah quit paying the tribute to Assyria that his dad was paying. They had conquered Israel and were now intent on taking Judah. The Assyrians had sent some ambassadors over to encourage them to surrender and they would spare their lives. It didn’t look good. They were outnumbered, out armed, and not in a good place. 2 Kings 19:1:
“When King Hezekiah heard this, he tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and went into the temple of the Lord.” 2 Kings 19:1
This was a big thing for a king to do; tear your clothes and put on sackcloth. This is one way of Hezekiah stating that he realized that in his own (or their own) power they would not be able to stand up against the Assyrians. He humbles himself before God. He doesn’t care what it looks like to his people, to his staff, to anyone else, all he cares about is what it looks like to God. Another prophet that was prophesying around this time was Micah. He says is Micah 6:8:
“He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8
God doesn’t just ask us to be humble. It’s a requirement. He requires justice, mercy, and humility. That means that sometimes we do things that to others might seem wimp-ish or soft. But to God it is a sign of obedience and a character of a Godly man of faith.
B. Set An Example Of Faithfulness
The second thing that he did was go to church! Okay, the temple, but it’s the same thing. Continuing on with the story in 2 Kings 19, verse 14-15:
“Then he went up to the temple of the Lord and spread it out before the Lord. And Hezekiah prayed to the Lord…” 2 Kings 19:14-15
Now normally when the king goes to the temple it is with a lot of fanfare, pomp and fanfare, with a crowd of people around him and he is given a place of honor. But take note of this: his decision in a time of stress, a time of dire need, a time where time is of the essence in all the decision making that needs to be done when you’re under attack, is to put himself in a place, the right place, to think clearly and to get perspective. That place was in God’s house. The Assyrians are attacking and they tell the Israelites not to listen to Hezekiah. He probably has a lot of people squawking in his ear and all trying to tell him what they thinks he needs to do. He goes to a place to hear from God.
Question: When you are confused, under pressure, and not sure which way turn, where do you go to hear God? I often hear people hurting and struggling and often they say just had too much to do and it just needed some time.” Part of being faithful is going to God and a place to hear him, like church, like on a walk to talk to him and listen to him, etc. Run to God not away from him. Another prophet of this time was Ezekiel and he says in Ezekiel 18:5 & 9:
“Suppose there is a righteous man who does what is just and right.9 He follows my decrees and faithfully keeps my laws. That man is righteous; he will surely live, declares the Sovereign Lord.” Ezekiel 18:5 & 9
I like that first line. A faithful man does what is right. Running to God is right. He has the answers, he has the strength, he has the power, he has it all and when you run to him, nothing is too hard for him or out of his control. Not even an army that is much more large than yours with many more weapons and means to defeat you.
C. Recognized When He Needed Help
And thirdly, he recognized when he needed help. He reaches out to his pastor, okay his priest. 2 Kings 19:2 & 4:
“He sent Eliakim the palace administrator, Shebna the secretary and the leading priests, all wearing sackcloth, to the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz. 4 It may be that the Lord your God will hear…” 2 Kings 19:2 & 4
I find it fascinating that he reaches out to Isaiah. The past kings didn’t like Isaiah because he was always speaking gloom and doom to them. They thought of Isaiah as an annoyance and pest. I mean, he kept telling them to trust God.
In our times of weakness we need others to help hold us up. I love that about our church. Our prayer list is a great example of that. So Hezekiah surrounds himself with people who will encourage him and hold him steady. That can be a great lesson for us too. When we are struggling do we have people that will hold us up in prayer, encourage us, keep us headed in the right direction even when others are trying to point us in the wrong direction. Even just to remind us that God is our help. Listen to Isaiah’s words in Isaiah 41:10:
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10
Sometimes all we need is a bit of encouragement. A reminder that God isin control and has all we need.
His Success Was Defined By God
That is creating a Godly legacy; because no matter what the outcome, Hezekiah was defining his success not by what he could do but by what God would do. Verse 7:
“And the Lord was with him; he was successful in whatever he undertook.” vs. 7
This is a pretty cool verse because it tells us that Hezekiah trusted God for the outcome and here is the great thing about it, this was before the story was over. To finish the story in 2 Kings 19, the Assyrians tell Hezekiah and the Israelites to surrender. But the next morning, when the Assyrians wake us, thousands of them had died. Know how many? The angle of the Lord goes through the camp that night and kills 185,000 soldiers. Wow! Whose army are you a part of? I want to be in God’s. That is one mighty powerful angel and one powerful God. When the Assyrians wake up and see this, they retreat. And the kicker of the story is this: that king of Assyria, King Sennacherib, never makes it back to Judah. Not long after this his sons attack him while he is worshipping in the temple of his pagan god. This is pretty good stuff.
Men: we have a hard job. We are to be role models, heads of households, fathers, elders in the church, leaders in our jobs, etc. I love what I see happening inour church and the men of our church standing up and being Godly men. Keep going. I finish with the words God told to Joshua, Be strong and courageous.