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The King Who Served God

Hezekiah was one of the greatest kings in the Old Testament, not only in the eyes of men but more importantly in the sight of God. People often measure a leader’s success by their accolades and accomplishments, but God measures a leader’s success by their character. In 2 Kings 18:1-8, Hezekiah’s example encourages us to be that kind of leader in whatever position of influence the Lord places us.

 

The King Who Loved God (2 Kings 18:1-8)

by Pastor Trent Boedicker 8/23/15

What are the qualities of a good leader?  Is it passion, or experience, a likable personality, eloquence, or vision…?  That’s a question that will be on our minds, over the next year or so, as the 2016 presidential campaign gets underway.  A host of candidates have already started traveling across the country making their case why they should be elected to the highest office in the land.  Among them are members of congress, diplomats, governors, businessmen.  You might have a favorite; I’m still undecided. Either way, we will have be plenty of time to weigh their accomplishments and examine their resumes in the months ahead.  You can look forward to countless debates, and town hall meetings, and television interviews where the candidates will try to convince voters they are the right person for the job.  And come November 2016, we will cast our ballots and decide.

But when we talk about leadership, we’re looking at more than the world of politics or business.  All of us find ourselves in positions of influence, in one area of life or another. If you are a parent (a mom or dad)…you are a leader.  You have tremendous influence on the lives of your children. If you are a grandparent…you are leader.  You have kids and grandkids looking to you for wisdom and guidance. If you are a teacher (in high school or in the church)… you are leader.  Your words will impact and shape the lives of your students. Even if you are a student… you are leader.  (at least you can be)  You may not realize it, but your classmates and peers are looking for an example they can follow. Wherever you are, whatever your position of influence, you are leader.  What kind of leader do you want to be?

That’s theme of our passage, this morning, as we open our Bibles to 2 Kings 18:1-8.  We’re going to begin a study of one of the best kings that ever ruled over the land of Judah: a man by the name of Hezekiah.  He doesn’t get as much publicity as others; we might not be as familiar with his name as some; but after David and Solomon – Scripture has more to say about Hezekiah than other king in the OT.  His reign is described in three books of the Bible: 2 Kings, 2 Chronicles, and Isaiah.  And there are a lot of lessons we can learn from his example.

Hezekiah was not only a good king in the eyes of men, more importantly, he was a good king in the sight of God.   People often measure a leader’s success by their accolades and accomplishments, but God measures a leader’s success by their character.  It doesn’t matter how many victories a king won in battle… it doesn’t matter how many building projects a king completed… if he didn’t follow the Lord he wasn’t a very good leader.

If the Lord measures a leader’s success by their character, then we need to pay careful attention to the way we conduct ourselves. 
Scripture tells us,

1 Now it came about in the third year of Hoshea, the son of Elah king of Israel, that Hezekiah the son of Ahaz king of Judah became king. 2 He was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem; and his mother’s name was Abi the daughter of Zechariah. 3 He did right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his father David had done. 4 He removed the high places and broke down the sacred pillars and cut down the Asherah. He also broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the sons of Israel burned incense to it; and it was called Nehushtan. 5 He trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel; so that after him there was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor among those who were before him. 6 For he clung to the Lord; he did not depart from following Him, but kept His commandments, which the Lord had commanded Moses. 7 And the Lord was with him; wherever he went he prospered. And he rebelled against the king of Assyria and did not serve him. 8 He defeated the Philistines as far as Gaza and its territory, from watchtower to fortified city.[1]

There are a lot of names, and events, in the passage that may be unfamiliar to us, and so we should talk about what’s happening in this period of history.  Israel, for a while now, has been divided into two separate nations.   After the reign of Solomon, the northern 10 tribes broke away and formed their own kingdom.  It was called Israel, and they moved their capital to the city of Samaria.  They chose their own king.  None of the kings who ruled over the Northern Kingdom of Israel were very godly men.  There were 19 kings who ruled over the Nothern Kingdom, and Hoshea, who is mentioned in verse 1, was the last.  During his reign, the northern kingdom of Israel was conquered and the ten tribes were scattered.  Meanwhile, Judah was a separate kingdom in the south.  The capital was Jerusalem, and all of Judah’s kings were descendants of David.  Some of them were good, they walked in the ways of the Lord.  Some of them were bad, they led God’s people into idolatry.

Hezekiah was one of the good guys.  The passage tells us in verse 3 that “He did right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his father David had done.”  That was a pretty high compliment.  David was the benchmark, and all of the kings who came after him would be compared with his example.  –How did they stack up?  How closely did they follow his pattern?  –About 300 years had passed (between David and Hezekiah).  There were twelve kings who took the throne between them.  Out of all of them, Hezekiah resembled David more closely in his faith and in his love for the Lord than any other.

He was 25 years old when he took the throne.  That sounds really young, to us.  Can you imagine electing a 25 year old president of the United States?  But Hezekiah demonstrated a remarkable level of spiritual maturity.  He wore the crown of for 29 years – reigning from around 715-768 B.C.

He faced some intense challenges.  The Assyrian Empire had the most powerful army in the region, and they threatened to invade any nation that did not pay tribute or submit to their authority.  But Hezekiah rebelled, and said to the king of Assyria, “You can threaten me all that you want, I’m not going to bow to you.”

He was also a great reformer.  He got rid of the high places, in Judah, where people worshipped idols.  God’s temple had a special place in his heart, and one of the first things that he did was open its doors and restore proper worship of the Lord.

There are a lot of lessons we can learn from Hezekiah’s example.

1. First of all, he shows us is that godly leaders are not afraid to stand out. They’re not afraid to be different.

We live in a world where it is so easy to follow the crowd, doing what everyone else is doing, to be swayed by the influences around us. There is tremendous pressure to conform. Think about young children on the playground.  You have the wild kids who are throwing mulch and hitting each other with sticks, and what happens?  The other kids start to imitate that behavior, until someone’s parent yells: “Johnny put that stick down…” That’s what people do: they conform.

But leaders are different.  Godly leaders don’t ask “what is everyone doing?”  They’re not content to blindly follow along with the crowd.  They’re more concerned with what the Lord wants them to do.

Hezekiah certainly stood out, from his contemporaries.  There were all kinds of negative influences that surrounded him.  It would have been so easy to follow along, and do what everyone else was doing.  But he didn’t.  He chose not to follow in the footsteps of his father.  According to verse one, he was the son of Ahaz, king of Judah.  If you’ll hold your place here, and turn back a couple of pages to chapter 16, we can see the kind of mentor and role model Hezekiah had to look up to growing up.  2 Kings 16:2-4 tells us,

      Ahaz was twenty years old when he became king, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem; and he did not do what was right in the sight of the Lord his God, as his father David had done. But he walked in the way of the kings of Israel, and even made his son pass through the fire, according to the abominations of the nations whom the Lord had driven out from before the sons of Israel. He sacrificed and burned incense on the high places and on the hills and under every green tree.

That wasn’t a godly example at all, in fact, it was the exact opposite.  Hezekiah’s father had been one of the most evil men to sit on the throne of David.  He worshipped idols.  He built shrines in every town of Judah so that the people could burn incense to other gods.  He participated in pagan rituals, going so far as to sacrifice his own son, one of Hezekiah’s brothers in the fire.  He desecrated the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem.  When he saw how the Assyrians worshipped, Ahaz instructed the priests to build an exact duplicate of the altar in Damascus, and he placed it in the temple court.  Not only did he turn away from the Lord, but he turned the hearts of the people away from the Lord as well.  He was corrupt, in every sense of the word.  Politically, economically, and spiritually, Ahaz left the nation a mess.

Just imagine growing up in that kind of home.  Hezekiah could have continued his father’s policies, but he didn’t.  Somewhere along the way, by the grace of God, he decided “that’s not the kind of man I’m going to be.”  He chose a different path.

Maybe you haven’t had the greatest role models in the world.  Maybe you didn’t grow up in a Christian home.  Maybe it you’ve been surrounded by negative influences, all your life.  But you don’t have to follow in those footsteps.  You don’t have to repeat the same mistakes.  We have a choice.  We can decide that we’re going to follow a better path.  Our past doesn’t have to determine our future.  This is a new day, and we can choose to follow the Lord.

Hezekiah chose not to follow the culture.  When he came to power, the kingdom was thoroughly pagan.  Everyone worshipped idols.  Not only did people worship the gods of the nations around them, they worshipped all kinds of things: like the bronze serpent from the time of Moses.  (remember way back in the book of Numbers, when God’s people were grumbling and complaining fiery serpents began to afflict them, and God  told Moses to make this staff, with a serpent at the top, and whoever looked up to it would be saved) – someone decided that this historic artifact should be worshipped, and they even gave it a name: Nehushtan, which ironically means “bronze thing.”  People were praying to it, and bowing before it.  Hezekiah spoke up:  “Stop that!  That’s not a god, it’s just a bronze thing.”  and got rid of it.  I’m sure that wasn’t a very popular decision at the time, it wasn’t the politically savvy thing to do.  Politicians would say “don’t make waves.”  Hezekiah wasn’t a politician, he was more concerned about doing the right thing than pleasing others.

Standing up for what’s right isn’t always the easy or popular thing to do.  Its a lot easier to follow along with everyone else, and not make waves.  But God’s people are supposed to care more about following the Lord than being popular.

We all have different influences in our lives, some good and others bad.  But we have the ability to decide the kind of person we will be, and the kind of life we will live.  One Christian author writes,

“Being different from the others, Hezekiah gives us a good example about not going along with the crowd. He …went the opposite direction… but it was the right direction. You have little character if you cannot go the opposite direction the unholy crowd is going. Any dead fish can float downstream, but it takes a live and healthy one to go upstream. The same is true in character and spirituality…We need the kind of faith that can stand strong in spite of all the unbelief around us.”[2]

We can pray: “Lord, help me to seek godly influences who lead us closer to you, help me to become that kind of influence for others.  Use me to draw others to you, let no one draw me away from you.”

2. Hezekiah’s example also teaches us that godly leaders place their confidence in the Lord, rather than trusting in themselves.

When we find ourselves leadership positions, we can be tempted to pat ourselves on the back a little and say:  “I can do this.  I have the ability, and the experience, and the know-how…”  Now there’s nothing wrong with confidence, just make sure it directed to the right place.  I don’t care how wise you are, you’re going to face challenges that you won’t be able to solve on your own.  I don’t care how experienced you might be, you’re going to encounter difficulties that are unlike anything you’ve seen.  We need to be humble, and admit: “Lord, I need you, I can’t do this on my own, but I’m so glad that I don’t have to, I can rely on you for wisdom and strength.”

Our passage (in 2 Kings 18:5) tells us where Hezekiah placed his confidence. “He trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel; so that after him there was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor among those who were before him.”  He not only believed in God, he lived in reliance upon the Lord, confident that God was able to guide him through any and every situation.

He could have put his trust in so many other things.  Boasting in his military strength (we have an army, chariots, horses, swords and shields – “I’m ready for anything!” But you what?  Armies can be conquered in battle.)  He could have trusted in his wealth (he lived in the palace, there was gold and silver in the royal treasury.  When his father got into trouble, he tried to buy his way out, paying tribute to the Assyrians.  It didn’t work so well.  Money eventually runs out, there are problems it cannot solve)  He could have trusted in his advisors (I’ve surrounded myself with the most intelligent people in the kingdom, they will be able guide me through anything) but even wise man can give bad advice.  Instead, Hezekiah trusted in the Lord, knowing that He is faithful.

In what, or in whom, have you placed your confidence?  Do you tell yourself: “I’m strong enough to handle anything.  If anyone tries to mess with me, they will see how tough I can be.  I know how to fight and take care of myself.”  – Sooner or later you’re going to find out that there are battles that you aren’t tough enough to win on your own.  Whether we are trusted in our wisdom, or our wealth, or whatever else we might look to for security those things will ultimately let us down.

It would be like climbing a rickety old ladder. Someone tells you, “there’s no way that thing is sturdy enough to hold you, you’d better be careful,” but it looks good enough to you. You’re too stubborn to listen.  You get about halfway up and hear something, the sound of wood snapping.  Your foot goes right through the step beneath you, and before you know it you are laying on the ground with the pieces of a broken ladder on top.

Don’t put your trust in the wrong place.  If we’re standing on anything else, other than the Lord, we’re going end up falling through.  God wants us to trust in Him He will never drop us or let us fall.

Trust requires humility because it means relinquishing control, and allowing Him to lead. Isaiah 26:4 tells us “Trust in the Lord forever, For in God the Lord, we have an everlasting Rock.” Psalm 21:7 echoes, “For the king trusts in the Lord; through the unfailing love of the Most High he will not be shaken.”

3. Hezekiah’s example shows us that godly leaders are committed.

You don’t have to worry about whether or not they are going to abandon ship when the rough waters come.  They are devoted, they stay the course, they remain true.

Hezekiah was like anyone else.  He made bad some mistakes, but he was committed to God.  Verse 6 tells us, “For he clung to the Lord; he did not depart from following Him, but kept His commandments, which the Lord had commanded Moses.”

I love that word picture: “…he clung to the Lord…” Little children no how to cling to their parents, when they are afraid, or when they don’t want to let mommy or daddy go.  We were at the zoo, recently, and I had been carrying Aireanah, but my arms were starting to get a little tired and so I was going to set her down so she should walk on her own.  But I tell you what, her little fingers gripped onto my arm so tight, she wasn’t going anywhere.  That’s how closely Hezekiah held fast to His God.  There were a lot of kings, in the history of Israel and Judah who started out on the right path, but fizzled out along the way.  Hezekiah stayed the course.  He refused to turn aside to worship other gods.  He never abandoned his faith, or fell away.  He stayed true.

How do we remain committed, and cling to the Lord?

We remain committed, remembering God in times of trouble, and time of prosperity.  Hezekiah had both.  There were times when he was surrounded by the enemy, and there was nowhere to go for help, but to look up to the Lord and pray.  And there were times of victory, when his armies drove the enemies back to reclaim territory which had been lost.  Hezekiah remembered God at all times.  It is easy to cry out to the Lord “I need you” when troubles come, but it is easy to forget him in times of peace and prosperity.  We need to remember Him all the days of our lives.  Don’t forget to give thanks in times of blessing, because if not for the goodness of the Lord, we wouldn’t be there. And in times of trouble remember that the Lord is still good, and we call always cry out to him.

We remain committed to God by obeying His Word.  Look at the last part of verse 6. “…he did not depart from following Him, but kept His commandments…”  Many of Judah’s rulers came to believe that they were above the Law.  I am the king after all, shouldn’t I be able to do whatever I want?  When the prophets spoke, they closed their ears and refused to listen.  Hezekiah, like David, realized there was an authority that was even greater than his.  The King of kings and Lord of lords reigns from heaven.  And we do well to heed the instruction of His Word.  If you want to cling to the Lord, you must also cling to His Word.  Listen to His voice.  And yield to His authority. 1 John 5:3 tells us “This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome.”

We remain committed to God by the way we order our priorities.  The first order of business for Hezekiah when he took office was to restore the worship if the Lord in Israel.  He cleansed the temple.  He dedicated the priests.  He tore down the high places and idols.  Then he turned his attention to other projects.  He knew what came first.  And we ought to follow that example in our own lives.  We get distracted so easily, there are so many things that demand our attention, and before we know it God is completely crowded out of the picture.  There is only so much time in a day, and so much time in a week, not everything can fit.  But if something is going to get left out, make sure it isn’t the Lord.  Guard your time with Him. Give precedence to your time in worship.  When we leave God out of equation, our life becomes unbalanced. Easy to lose interest, get distracted, sidetracked by other concerns.  A leader who is committed stays focused on the most important things

Conclusion –

Hezekiah was a godly leader, and the result?  Verse 7 tells us: “And the Lord was with him; he was successful in whatever he undertook.”  It doesn’t say that his reign was easy, or free from adversity…  It doesn’t say everything worked out the way that he expected it to… But there were a lot good things that were accomplished during his reign because Hezekiah followed the Lord.

God can use us, today, to make a difference in the lives of others, if we follow Him.  If we place ourselves in His hands and say, “Lord, I am your servant, use me,” He will.

Where is God calling you to be a leader, this morning?  In your home?  In your school?  In your workplace?  In your neighborhood?  Don’t be intimidated or shy away from that responsibility,. rather, pray that the Lord would teach you to be the kind of leader who makes a positive impact on the people around you.  Identify the position of influence where the Lord has placed you.

You may be tempted to think that you have to come up with the answers yourself, you have to have all the good ideas, you have to put together the plan… slow down, realize that’s not the case. Godly leaders look above for direction, and trust that the Lord will lead the way. Humbly place your confidence in God

Finally, stay committed.  Don’t bail when the waters get rough and you are tempted to run.  Stay the course, put God first, don’t let Him get crowded out of the picture and the Lord will be with you in all that you do.

 

[1] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (2 Ki 18:1–8). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

[2] Butler, J. G. (1999). Hezekiah: The King of Survival (Vol. Number Eighteen, p. 14). Clinton, IA: LBC Publications.

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