Hezekiah was one of the few good kings of Judah during the days of the kingdom of Israel. He reigned over the Southern Kingdom for 29 years and did many great things to further the recognition and worship of God before the Israelites. However, there is an event recorded during this good king’s reign that had repercussions for future generations of Israelites.
This event is recorded in two different passages of Scripture: 2 Kings 20:12-19 and Isaiah 39 both relate the event. Hezekiah, as king, receives emissaries from the kingdom of Babylon. Among these emissaries is the son of the king, who brings letters and a present from the Babylonian king because he has heard Hezekiah has been sick. Hezekiah then takes these emissaries on a guided tour of the kingdom. He shows all of the riches, wealth, and physical glory of the kingdom of Judah. There is nothing of value in his kingdom that is not seen by these emissaries from a foreign land.
After the tour is completed and the emissaries have returned home, the prophet Isaiah comes to Hezekiah and asks who these men are and what they have seen. Hezekiah relates the truth; that they are from Babylon and he has shown them everything. Isaiah then prophesies that in the days to come Babylon will completely empty Judah. They will take her wealth, they will take her royal sons, and everything of value will be taken to Babylon. The only thing Hezekiah says in response is to give thanks that it will not happen during his lifetime. He recognizes the folly of his actions and what it will mean for his people. Consider some lessons we should learn from Hezekiah’s folly.
God will make known our hearts
In relation to this same event, the writer of Chronicles records: “Howbeit in the business of the ambassadors of the princes of Babylon, who sent unto him to enquire of the wonder that was done in the land, God left him, to try him, that he might know all that was in his heart” (2 Chr. 32:31). God uses this situation as an opportunity to test Hezekiah, to see what he would do and how he would respond to these strangers from a foreign land. Hezekiah responds with pride, more than happy to show off the riches that have been bestowed upon the people by God. Yet this pride would be a detriment to the people because it would show to the Babylonians the riches of Judah and make them a target in generations to come. God watches out for mankind and takes care of his servants; but he also leaves the door open for man to make his own decisions, to see whether or not he will be puffed up with pride at who he is and what he has, or whether he will be humble in recognizing who where all of his blessings originate. What would God find in our hearts?
Boastfulness in physical possessions always brings trouble
Hezekiah was more than happy to show off the bounty of his kingdom to these foreign officials. He was showcasing the best that Judah had to offer and held nothing back. Often times we do the same thing; we are more than happy to show off all we have acquired and accumulated in life to those who will take the time to see it. Sometimes it is done as a means of acquiring awe or acceptance in the eyes of others; sometimes it is done as a means of boasting of the accomplishments of life. In either sense, such actions generally serve to be far more detrimental than beneficial. They portray us as shallow, self-serving, and prideful. They relate a willingness to take the glory for our blessings instead of laying them at the feet of God. There is much truth to the proverb, “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall” (Pro. 16:18).
Materialism destroys our place before God
Hezekiah was proud of all that had been acquired during his reign and the things that had added to the glory of his kingdom. But that pleasure in material things did not endear him to God on this occasion. The same holds true for us today. Our desire to have and obtain material possessions and the pride and pleasure we take in such menial things can serve to be a great stumbling-block for any man. When man begins to focus on the physical things of this world, his focus on God falters, because you cannot be focused on both at the same time (Mat. 6:24). Materialism destroys, and Hezekiah is a prime example of allowing wealth to be a stumbling-block.
The example of Hezekiah, overall, is a very positive one. He served God well and did much that was good for his people and their relationship with God. Unfortunately, in this instance, his heart was not where it should have been and the ramifications were severe. Let us remember Hezekiah’s folly.