Hezekiah was the twelfth king of Judah. His name means, “Jehovah is my Strength”. Because of his faith and obedience, Hezekiah became one of the greatest kings of Judah: “He trusted in the LORD God of Israel; so that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor any that were before him. 6 For he clave to the LORD, and departed not from following him, but kept his commandments, which the LORD commanded Moses” (II Ki. 18: 5-6).
The chronology of Hezekiah’s reign presents some difficulty, in relation to the fall of Samaria in the sixth year of his reign (II Ki. 18: 10) and the invasion of Judah by Sennacherib in 701BC (II Ki. 18: 13). As a result, most commentators believe that Hezekiah was co-regent with his father Ahaz for some years before he became king. When Ahaz died, Hezekiah assumed the throne (II Ki. 18: 1; II Chron. 29: 1). He ruled Judah for twenty nine years (II Ki. 18: 2).
“His reign is memorable for his faithful efforts to restore the worship of Jehovah; for his pride and presumption towards the Assyrians; for the distractions of their invading host in answer to his prayer; for his sickness and humiliation, and the prolonging of his life fifteen years of peace. He was succeeded by the unworthy Manasseh” (American Tract Society Dictionary).
Let us look at some qualities that characterised the life of this faithful king:
Hezekiah’s father, Ahaz, was one of the most wicked kings of Judah (II Ki. 16: 2-4). However, Hezekiah did not follow in the footsteps of his ungodly father to do evil. Rejecting the sinful pleasures of the royal court and the idolatries of the land, he chose to be true to the Lord. Some attribute his piety to his upbringing by his mother – “Abi, the daughter of Zachariah” – whom many believe was a godly woman (II Chron. 26: 5). Her pious influence counteracted the bad example of Hezekiah's father.
We are told that “he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD , according to all that David his father had done” (II Chron. 29: 2). This was a tribute that was paid to only two other kings of Judah – Asa (I Ki. 15: 11) and Josiah (II Ki. 22: 2).
Because of the evil influence of his father, Ahaz, idolatry was rampant in his kingdom. When Hezekiah ascended the throne, he immediately went about reforming the land by restoring the worship of Jehovah and cleansing the temple (II Chron. 29: 3-36).
Moreover, the young king purged Judah of all her idols, including the brazen serpent which the children of Israel had brought with them to Jerusalem, and which had become an object of idolatrous worship: “… he removed the high places, and brake the images, and cut down the groves and brake in pieces the brasen serpent that Moses had made: for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it and he called it Nehushtan” (II Kings 18: 3-4 (cf. Num. 21: 9).
In his radical reforms to abolish idolatry from his kingdom, Hezekiah could have incurred the wrath of his idol-worshipping subjects and provoked them to rebellion. But the godly king, knowing what was right and good for his people, went about his task without fear or favour.
When he first became king, Hezekiah found his kingdom surrounded by enemies, but, unlike his father, he did not seek the help of his heathen neighbours by forming alliances with them. Instead, he trusted in the God of Israel to protect his kingdom.
Most of the kings before Hezekiah did wickedly, but Hezekiah faithfully followed the Lord and kept His commandments: “For he clave to the LORD, and departed not from following him, but kept his commandments, which the LORD commanded Moses” (II Ki. 18: 6).
Hezekiah wisely committed the kingdom’s affairs into the Lord’s hands. When he received a letter from Assyria threatening to invade the land, he “went up into the house of the LORD, and spread it before the LORD” (II Ki. 19: 14-19). In response, God sent His prophet, Isaiah, to assure the faithful king that his prayer had been heard (II Ki. 19: 20). That very night, the angel of the LORD “smote in the camp of the Assyrians an hundred fourscore and five thousand: and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses” (II Ki. 19: 35).
“Hezekiah's simple childlike faith appears in his spreading the foe’s insolent, letter before the Lord. His faith received an immediate answer of peace; 185,000 were slain by the angel of the Lord in the night” (Fausset’s Bible Dictionary).
Blessed with divine favour because of his faith in the Lord, Hezekiah ruled Judah wisely. Moreover, the Lord gave him victory over his enemies: “And the LORD was with him; and he prospered whithersoever he went forth: and he rebelled against the king of Assyria, and served him not. He smote the Philistines, even unto Gaza, and the borders thereof, from the tower of the watchmen to the fenced city” (II Ki. 18: 7-8).
Despite the sins of his father, Hezekiah rose to become one of the most God-fearing kings of Judah. When he became king, he fearlessly brought about religious reforms by purging the kingdom of idolatry. He trusted in the Lord and did what was “right in his sight” (II Chron. 29: 2). The Lord prospered Hezekiah because of his faith and obedience.
Brethren, let us learn from the fine example of King Hezekiah. Like this godly monarch, let us not be deterred by life’s negative circumstances but resolve to walk uprightly before the Lord. Let us fear God rather than man. May we also strive to honour the Lord in all our ways. May the Lord grant us grace to walk in the footsteps of this faithful king. (… to be continued)