Now it came to pass in the third year of Hoshea son of Elah king of Israel, that Hezekiah the son of Ahaz king of Judah began to reign. Twenty and five years old was he when he began to reign; and he reigned twenty and nine years in Jerusalem.” So commences the account of the reign of Hezekiah in 2 Kings 18:1. Have you noticed that of that twenty-nine year reign of Hezekiah we are only give details of two separate years in the life and reign of the King? That in itself is a striking point of interest. We are particularly told what he did in the first year and what happened in the fourteenth year of his reign. Yet, as far as world history was concerned, some momentous and terrifying events were taking place around Judah at that time. Let us refresh our minds on these things.

Ahaz, the father of Hezekiah was an idolater, worshipping Baalam, burning incense and even his children in the valley of Hinnom, and finally opting for the gods of Damascus, having seen them when he went up to meet the King of Assyria there. This meeting was not by choice of Ahaz but by demand from the King of Assyria, and Ahaz was put under tribute by Assyria. This is the Ahaz who refused a sign from Yahweh to indicate that He was with him when Isaiah met him at the fountain of the fuller’s field, or Gihon. We read: “Yahweh spake again unto Ahaz, saying, Ask thee a sign of Yahweh thy God; ask it either in the depth, or in the height above. But Ahaz said: “I will not ask, neither will I tempt Yahweh” (Isa 7:10–12). Ahaz, in the continuing iniquity of his sixteen year reign, “gathered together the vessels of the house of God, and cut in pieces the vessels of the house of God, and shut up the doors of the house of Yahweh, and he made him altars in every corner of Jerusalem. And in every several city of Judah he made high places to burn incense unto other gods, and provoked to anger Yahweh” (2 Chron 28:24–25). This was the kingdom that Hezekiah inherited at the age of twenty-five—a kingdom of corruption and idolatry.

A Year of Intense Activity

Hezekiah’s activity in this first year of his reign shows he had developed a well established plan with an ultimate goal in view. So we read: “He in the first year of his reign, in the first month [ie Abib], opened the doors of the house of Yahweh, and repaired them” (2 Chron 29:3). We can imagine this young king preparing and waiting day by day for the beginning of the new religious year to commence his planned reformation in Judah. As we read through the next three chapters we are told of the structure of his plan and how it was rolled out for the next twelve months. An amazing change took place because he had carefully and prayerfully planned his work. At the end of this year we have a summary of his work from Yahweh’s perspective:

“Thus did Hezekiah throughout all Judah, and wrought that which was good and right and truth before Yahweh his God. And in every work that he began in the service of the house of God, and in the law, and in the commandments, to seek his God, he did it with all his heart, and prospered” (2 Chron 31:20–21).

Brethren and sisters, does our spiritual CV read like this at the end of each year? Do we start the year with a plan and then steadily and prayerfully work through that plan in the service of God. Our work is in “the house of God, which is the ecclesia of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth”, just as Hezekiah’s was. How active are we in the areas in which we have the ability to toil? Do we perform our work as Hezekiah did “with all his heart”? To carefully think through the plan Hezekiah executed in the ecclesia of his day is a lesson for all who are involved in building up their ecclesia.

Hezekiah had lived in an ecclesia that had given way to the world. His father was one of the chief culprits in leading the nation down this path. But at twenty-five Hezekiah had had enough of this ungodliness. He had the courage to stand up and act. He decided that the evil practices of his father and others would be tolerated no longer. Before Hezekiah could invite the northern ecclesia to fellowship in the Passover he knew he must first clean up his own ecclesia. The invitation to the north was only sent out after things were put right in Jerusalem and Judah. Jesus has warned us that it is sheer hypocrisy to behold the mote in our brother’s eye, without first considering the beam that is in our own eye (Matt 7:3). There is a need to set our own things right first before we try to influence others for good.

A Test of Faith

There is a comment in Kings concerning Hezekiah’s actions when he came to the throne that we may not at first have noticed. It is in 2 Kings 18:5–7: “He trusted in Yahweh God of Israel; so that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor any that were before him. For he clave to Yahweh, and departed not from following him, but kept his commandments, which Yahweh commanded Moses. And Yahweh was with him; and he prospered whithersoever he went forth: and he rebelled against the king of Assyria, and served him not.” We are impressed by the comments—

  • he trusted in Yahweh God of Israel
  • he clave to Yahweh
  • he departed not from following Him.

We may ask—how do we know he had complete trust in Yahweh? Look at the comment at the end of these verses: “He rebelled against the king of Assyria, and served him not.” Humanly speaking this was the greatest act of folly any king could commit right then! Assyria was master of the world. It was a most vicious and cruel power and it had already swept down from the north and taken Syria and northern Israel, or the Galilee. Tyre and Sidon fell and Assyria was on the march south. No power had been able to withstand Assyria. To make such a stand against the mightiest power on the earth and say he would trust in Yahweh was a giant step of faith. Within six years of Hezekiah’s rebellion against Assyria the ten tribes in the north were devoured and scattered into exile by Assyria. Assyria then marched down the Philistine territory to block any move by Egypt, taking the Philistine cities as it went. All that was left for Assyria to do now was to march inland and overthrow this rebellious Hezekiah and capture Jerusalem.

The Fourteenth Year of Hezekiah

While Assyria paused at Lachish to besiege the city and take it, Hezekiah made preparations for the siege that Jerusalem must soon face. The Hezekiah Tunnel, as we now call it, was dug to bring water into the city so they could withstand the siege longer. However in the city there was division of thought. Some urged a confederacy with Egypt, as Isaiah condemned: “Woe to them that go down to Egypt for help; and stay [or rely] on horses, and trust in chariots, because they are many; and in horsemen, because they are very strong; but they look not unto the Holy One of Israel, neither seek Yahweh… Now the Egyptians are men, and not God; and their horses flesh, and not spirit” (Isa 31:1–3). Others with a fatalistic outlook said: “Let us eat and drink; for to morrow we shall die” (Isa 22:13).

While these conflicts were going on within Jerusalem, Rabshakeh, Sennacherib’s ambassador, arrived outside the city with 185 000 Assyrian soldiers who laid siege to the city. We are aware of the psychological warfare that then took place, as Rabshakeh warned the inhabitants of the city that it was futile to trust in Egypt for it was like a broken reed. Further Rabshakeh blasphemed Yahweh by claiming that Yahweh had sent him, thus destabilising the people more (2 Kings 18:25). His words to the people were: “Neither let Hezekiah make you trust in Yahweh, saying, Yahweh will surely deliver us: this city shall not be delivered into the hand of the king of Assyria” (Isa 36:15). This was a direct challenge to Hezekiah’s words to the people: “Be strong and courageous, be not afraid nor dismayed for the king of Assyria, nor for all the multitude that is with him: for there be more with us than with him: with him is an arm of flesh; but with us is Yahweh our God to help us, and to fight our battles” (2 Chron 32:7–8).

As we read the record we know what the end result of this conflict was, but if we were living in Jerusalem at that time what would we really be thinking? We know there were 185 000 soldiers outside the walls of the city. It is not a difficult mathematical exercise to realise that if these 185 000 soldiers marched at arm’s length behind each other they would extend for 185 kilometres—or to put the seriousness of the issue another way, if they circled the walks of Jerusalem one metre apart they would be 46 men deep around the city! As you looked over the wall, this well trained group of soldiers would be a very terrifying sight. And while you looked at them you heard the defiant challenging of Rabshakeh, reminding you that there was not another nation that had been able to withstand the Assyrian might. The final act of Rabshakeh was to send a letter to Hezekiah defaming Yahweh and continuing the threat of the total destruction of Jerusalem.

A State of Extreme Emergency

It was at this critical time, when all looked to the king for guidance and assurance, that Hezekiah himself became terminally ill. Do you ever feel you have an emergency in your life? When we feel that we are in the vortex of unrelenting disasters that come upon us one after another, these events of Hezekiah’s fourteenth year remind us that what to us may seem an emergency is not so with God. There are no emergencies with God. Do we believe this? God is in control all the time. He knows what the next day holds.

Hezekiah had prayed that Yahweh would deliver the city (Isa 37:15–20), and he waited for a reply. At this critical time he was struck with severe illness and told he would die. His next act demonstrates what all faithful men and women must do in an emergency—pray to God! God sent Isaiah to him, saying: “Thus saith Yahweh, Set thine house in order: for thou shalt die, and not live. Then Hezekiah turned his face toward the wall, and prayed unto Yahweh, and said, Remember now, O Yahweh, I beseech thee, how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight” (Isa 38:1). Notice how he calls upon Yahweh to remember his past life of service. He had walked in truth with a perfect heart and done good. This was not a boast but a statement of fact.

We know that Yahweh answered this prayer. Isaiah came to him with this message from Yahweh: “I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold,

  • I will add unto thy days fifteen years [he was not going to die then],
  • And I will deliver thee and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria: and I will defend this city” (v5–6).

Both prayers of Hezekiah were answered. Consider what this reply meant—the reversal of his terminal illness and the reversal of certain destruction that faced Jerusalem. From God’s perspective there was no emergency. There was a trial of faith—but not an emergency. The earnest prayers of this faithful man were answered. And there was a sign given in heaven to confirm that Hezekiah would live—the sun went back ten degrees on an idolatrous structure that Ahaz, Hezekiah’s father, had built (2 Kings 20:9–11; cp 2 Kings 23:11–12). This miraculous sign from heaven was given to faithful Hezekiah, the son of Ahaz who refused to ask for a sign from heaven (Isa 7:10–12).

It is amazing how Yahweh can resolve the emergencies we face. One day the inhabitants of Jerusalem were greatly distressed about 185 000 soldiers who were encamped around the city to destroy them. The next day they would have been worrying about how to bury 185 000 bodies before disease and plague broke out!

How did this happen? “That night the angel of Yahweh went out, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians an hundred fourscore and five thousand” (2 Kings 19:35). Note that it was one angel who did this mighty work. Do we really believe David’s words? “The angel [one only] of Yahweh encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them” (Psa 34:7). Do we really believe Paul’s words? “Are they [the angels] not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?” (Heb 1:14).

Let us remember as we face emergencies, and we all have emergencies as we continue in our walk before our God, that from God’s perspective there is no emergency with Him. He knows our problems and He knows the end of them all. They may not be resolved as swiftly or as fully in this life as were the emergencies Hezekiah faced in his fourteenth year, but God has promised: “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me” (Heb 13:5–6). As a loving Father who pities His children He knows our difficulties, and understands how real and daunting they are to us. Let us take them to Him in prayer and wait upon Him, knowing that He cares for all His children. The angel of Yahweh is always there to help us if we continue to trust in Him. And is there anything too hard for Yahweh?