Many, many, many years ago there was a man who stole a horse late one Saturday night in Boston. The Police found him not far from the scene of the crime on Monday morning. They were amazed that he stayed so close to are from which he stole the horse. They asked him, ”How is it that you did not get away yesterday? You had all Sunday to ride off into the sunset?” The man responded, ”I have some very strong convictions about traveling on Sunday.”
Talk about a mixed up sense of values. That is a messed up morality. That described the political climate of the nations of Judah and Israel. It describes the political and moral climate of today.
Believe it or not, we are going to look at the life of a politician tonight. It will be G-rated and not sexually explicit so it will not be about Donald Trump. It will promote honesty, integrity and faithfulness to God so it will not be about Hillary Clinton. We are going to look at the life of an OT King by the name of Hezekiah and lean some of what it takes to be a person who pleases God and prospers in His Kingdom.
Hezekiah was king over Judah, the southern Kingdom. To really appreciate Hezekiah (who was not perfect) and the verses we are about to read it would be helpful to understand something of the environmental influences in his life. I want us to think about the home he grew up in and the religious and political/national climate of his day.
The majority of Kings in Judah to this point had been condemned, rebuked and rejected by God because of the unfaithfulness and idolatry. The political and moral climate of the nation was extremely low and zeal for true faith in God was almost non-existent.
Hezekiah’s father, King Ahaz, was wicked king and even worse father.
1. He made molten images to the Baals (false gods)
2. He made his sons walk through the fires of Bin-hinnom. It was not a test of manhood or strength. It means he sacrificed them to those false gods.
3. While promoting faith to false gods he discouraged faithfulness to the one true God. He closed the doors to the temple. He shut down the church. He effectively stopped worship to the one true God and did not celebrate the holy days and feast days of OT law.
4. He chose to rely on political alignments with other countries (foreign policy) rather than relying on God which is what the Kings of Judah and Israel were called to do.
5. He was so wicked, weak and feckless in his faith that whenever Judah would suffer a defeat at the hands of another nation he would have a god swap. He would trade their god for the god of the conquering nation, obviously that god had to be stronger.
Ahaz was not a man of faith. He was not a man of integrity. He was not a man of conviction. He was not a man of God and it is out of this the Hezekiah steps into office. You would think that Hezekiah would be no different from his father, except maybe a little worse but let’s see what the Bible has to say about Hezekiah and discover if there is something we can learn from His example.
2 Kings 18.1-7a – 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.
Immediately we see a huge contrast between Hezekiah and his father Ahaz. His approach was different because his convictions and his faith was different. Our faith matters. Our convictions matter. Our character matters.
One thing we see in this passage is…
GOD DESIRES PEOPLE OF GODLY CONVICTION
We can read those verse and say, ”Yes! Good job Hezekiah!” and it was. But, we can also overlook the drastic and sweeping changes that he implemented and implemented quickly. Change is hard in any organization. He made changes not on a small scale or simply to a small group. These were massive wholesale changes in the area of politics and religion. We all know if you want to get people riled up talk politics and religion (unfortunately in our country we have too long conflated the two).
1. He opened the doors to temple. He opened the church back up.
2. He tore down the high places. He tore down the altars and places of worship to the false gods. That included destroying Nehushtan which was the bronze serpent from their days of wandering in the wilderness. (Taken something good, something God used, and turned it into a god. We have such a habit of taking what was made or used of God and placing it above or beside God).
3. He reinstated the Passover. That was their great celebration of deliverance.
4. He hired the preachers and worship leaders back (kind of). He brought them back and had them consecrate themselves to leading the people in worship to God again.
These are drastic changes. From a political perspective they may not have been the wisest moves to make at that time. That was definitely not the direction the nation had been headed in. It was the direction they had been running from. It could have thrown the nation into turmoil at a critical point in their history. They were approaching war with Assyria.
Hezekiah was a man of conviction. He was more concerned about the spiritual welfare of Judah than political expediency. He was more concerned about pleasing God than pleasing his constituency.
God desires for us to be that kind of people, courageous and firm in our faith/conviction.
There was a story (close to 25 years ago now) about a Nebraska judge named Joseph Moylan who stepped down from his position of over 20 years because of his deeply held faith. Judge Moylan was a pro-life judge faced with a new state law, one that came into effect in 1991, that required girls under the age of 18 to notify their parents before getting an abortion or they could bypass their parents by gaining a judge’s approval.
In 1993 he received his first case. He did not accept it. He wrote in his letter of resignation. ”I simply cannot authorize one human life to put to death another totally innocent human life. This is the first law I have encountered in 21 years that I am unable to enforce.” He then quoted Abraham Lincoln by saying, ”No law can give me the right to do what is wrong.”
He forfeited his income, part of his retirement and insurance. He was Nebraska’s first resignation due to conscience.
May his tribe increase! It is one thing to hold a conviction in our heart. It is another thing to act on that conviction and be willing to pay the price.
Too many of us are like this one man I read about who seldom came to church. It was Christmas and as was his custom this man came to church with this family for the holidays.
After the service the pastor was greeting everyone as they left and when this man reached out to shake the preacher’s hand the pastor pulled him aside and said, ”It is good to see you. I wish we would see you a little more often. You need to get on board and join the Lord’s army.” To which the man replied, ”I’m already in the Lord’s army pastor!” Slightly puzzled the pastor looked at him and asked, ”Well then why do I only see you one Easter and Christmas?” The man whispered back, ”I’m in the Lord’s secret service.”
God doesn’t want us in the secret service. Secret conviction and beliefs are not real convictions or beliefs. They are only real if we act on them and live according to them.
GOD DESIRES OBEDIENCE (He wants us to act on our convictions/beliefs/faith)
What would you have thought about Hezekiah if we knew he opposed his father’s beliefs and politics and when given the opportunity to speak against them or change them he didn’t? What words would you use to describe Hezekiah then? They would not be flattering. Coward. Liar. Fake. Hypocrite.
That’s what we think of people who say they have deeply held beliefs but whose life betrays those deeply held beliefs. That does not please God. How often and in how many ways do we do that?
1. We believe He is worthy of our praise but we find every reason in the world not to be in church.
2. We believe He is the most important person in the universe and beyond but we fail to spend time with Him in prayer or reading His word.
3. We believe He provides all of our needs and can be trusted with our eternity but we will not trust Him by giving at the bare minimum a tithe.
4. We believe that Jesus is the only road that leads to God and heaven and that every other road leads to hell but never share Him with our friends.
We could go on and on with questions like that and for most of us, myself included, would find our heads hanging lower and lower in shame because while I say I believe this book strongly there are many, many areas in this book to which I am not obedient.
God desires people who are obedient and consistently act on their deeply held faith and beliefs. That is something that escapes this world. It is never more evident in the public eye than in election time.
1. Tim Kaine and Hillary Clinton’s position on abortion. Tim Kaine saying he is personally pro-life but does not see that as something to publically stand on or fight for. That is not a matter of differing economic, militaristic, judicial or diplomatic philosophy. It is a matter of truth and life.
2. Don’t tell me Mr. Trump that you are a religious person and yet have never asked for forgiveness and fail to show any form of genuine remorse or repentance. Don’t tell me you are a person of faith when you have made and lost millions promoting things in your business through Casinos and Strip clubs without any remorse or repentance.
3. A faith that does not affect our actions is not a faith. The bigoted emails that have been leaked from Hillary’s Democrat party concerning people of faith shows they don’t understand that if our faith is not connected to our life it is not a true faith.
It has never been and will never be easy to live out our faith. I pray some of the things that our religious leaders are predicting do not become reality but one thing I know it is going to require those of us who genuinely believe to buckle up and hold on.
GOD DESIRES PEOPLE WHO TENACIOUSLY HOLD TO HIM
Hezekiah not only heard God’s Word and promises He clung to them. The held onto them and would not let go. 2 Kings 18.6 – For he clung to the LORD; he did not depart from following Him, but kept His commandments. There was a tenacity to his faith. He was not perfect. He did not live a perfect life. He made some poor decisions but he did not let go.
I read about a commuter flight between Portland, Main and Boston. The pilot, Henry Dempsey, heard and noise and turned over the controls to his co-pilot so he could check it out. He quickly discovered what they noise was. The door was improperly latched. The door opened and sucked Henry out. He managed to grab a ladder and hold on for 10 minutes (talk about an improved prayer life). The co-pilot thought he had fallen and radioed for a search.
When the plane landed they found him clinging to the ladder and it took several minutes to pray his fingers loose. He held on for dear life because he knew what would happen if he let go of that ladder.
Hezekiah knew firsthand what happens when you let go of God. He saw Israel let go and God let them go. They are no longer mentioned in this book.
In reading about Hezekiah’s life we find him clinging to God (Yes, President Obama that’s what people of faith do) when Assyria came against them Hezekiah took the problem and laid it out before God and cried to Him. He trusted God and God brought a great victory to Judah. Listen to the words he spoke to the people in 2 Chronicles 32.7-8 – ”Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged because of the king of Assyria and the vast army with him, for there is a greater power with us than with him. 8 With him is only the arm of flesh, but with us is the LORD our God to help us and to fight our battles.” And the people gained confidence from what Hezekiah the king of Judah said.”
I hope you remember from a few Sundays ago when we talked about faith and that what was important was not the size and strength of our faith but the object of our faith. We said a little faith in a great God accomplishes great things. I know it is the strength of my grip that will keep me till the end but by faith I will continually place myself in His hands because His grip never fails.
Someone once said, I don’t know who because I failed to record the source, that ”The world is looking for men who are not for sale, men who are sound from center to circumference, true to the heart’s core, men who will tell the truth and look the world right in the eye; men who neither drag nor run, men who neither flag nor flinch; men who can have courage without shouting it; men in whom courage of everlasting life runs still, deep and strong; men who know their message and tell it; men who know their place and fill it; men who know their business and attend to it; men who will not lie, shirk, or dodge; men who are not too lazy to work, nor too proud to be poor; men who are willing to eat what they have earned and wear what they have paid for; men who are not ashamed to say, ”This is the God I believe in and am not ashamed to serve.”
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