Hezekiah was one of the greatest kings of Judah. Unlike his father, Ahaz, who did wickedly and “walked in the ways of the kings of Israel, and made also molten images for Baalim” (II Chron. 28: 2), Hezekiah “did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that David his father did” (II Ki. 18: 3). We also note that the king faithfully kept God’s commandments: “He clave to the LORD, and departed not from following him, but kept his commandments, which the LORD commanded Moses” (II Ki. 18: 6).
Because of Hezekiah’s faith and obedience, “the LORD was with him; and he prospered whithersoever he went forth” (II Ki. 18: 7). God granted the godly monarch victory over his enemies, in particular, the Assyrians whom the angel of the Lord completely destroyed in one night (II Ki. 19: 35).
Subsequently, Hezekiah fell grievously ill even unto the point of death. When he prayed for deliverance, the Lord heard him and graciously added fifteen years to his life (II Ki. 20: 1-11).
Though Hezekiah was a God-fearing and upright king, he had his weaknesses. This was manifested during a visit by an ambassage from Merodachbaladan, the son of Baladan, King of Babylon. Having “heard that he had been sick, and was recovered” (Isa. 39: 1), the royal party came to congratulate him on his recovery, and “to enquire of the wonder that was done in the land” (II Chron. 32: 31b) - “either the destruction of the Assyrian army or the going back of the sun. The Assyrians were their enemies; they came to enquire concerning their fall, that they might triumph in it. The sun was their god; they came to enquire concerning the favour he had shown to Hezekiah, that they might honour him whom their god honoured” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible).
Greatly flattered by the attention of his royal guests who had come from so far and so powerful a country, Hezekiah proudly showed the king’s ambassadors all his treasures: “And Hezekiah was glad of them, and shewed them the house of his precious things, the silver, and the gold, and the spices, and the precious ointment, and all the house of his armour, and all that was found in his treasures: there was nothing in his house, nor in all his dominion, that Hezekiah shewed them not” (Isa. 39: 2).
The Bible tells us that the Lord allowed the visit to try Hezekiah: “Howbeit in the business of the ambassadors of the princes of Babylon, who sent unto him to inquire 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” (II Chron. 32: 31). This means that God left the king to his own corruption and lusts – to remind him that he was as weak and sinful as other men.
“God withdrew from him those supplies and assistances of his Spirit which would certainly and effectually have kept him from that sin, and suffered Satan to tempt him, and him to fall into the sin of pride and ostentation” (Matthew Poole’s Commentary on the Holy Bible).
We are told that “Hezekiah rendered not again according to the benefit done unto him; for his heart was lifted up” (II Chron. 32: 21). Overtaken by pride, the king did not render to God the glory due to Him for the miraculous victory over the Assyrians and his restoration from sickness. Instead, he stole the honour for himself as he exhibited his great riches and military arms before the heathen visitors.
But Hezekiah’s pride had displeased the Lord. He sent the prophet Isaiah to rebuke the king and to pronounce God’s judgment upon him. All that the king had proudly displayed before his foreign guests would be carried away to Babylon. Moreover, his sons would be eunuchs in the Babylonian court: “Behold, the days come, that all that is in thine house, and that which thy fathers have laid up in store until this day, shall be carried to Babylon: nothing shall be left, saith the LORD. 7 And of thy sons that shall issue from thee, which thou shalt beget, shall they take away; and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon” (Isa. 39: 6-7).
Though Hezekiah was a God-fearing king, he was still a depraved man, subject to like passions as we are. In a moment of folly and self-will, his heart was lifted up in vain glory. The Lord dealt with the proud king by sending great afflictions upon his descendants.
Pride is an abomination to our Lord (Prov. 16: 5). Truly, God sets Himself against the proud and abases them: “God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble” (Jas. 4: 6 cf. Prov. 29: 23; I Pet. 5: 5).
“Those that think to gain respect by lifting up themselves above their rank, by looking high, talking big, appearing fine, and applauding themselves, will on the contrary expose themselves to contempt, lose their reputation, and provoke God by humbling providences to bring them down and lay them low” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible).
Brethren, let us guard our hearts against this wicked sin. Strive to consciously curb any lofty thoughts of self. Seek to walk humbly before God and our fellow men. May the Lord help us as we resolve to conquer this sinful tendency.