King Hezekiah’s Fatal Flaw

by John Beeson

The aged prophet Isaiah showed up at the bedside of the middle-aged king. Hezekiah was only about 39 years old and terminally ill. But the prophet was not bringing good news, “Set your house in order, for you shall die, you shall not recover” (Is. 38:1).


The weak king cried out to God, “’Please, O LORD, remember how I have walked before you in faithfulness and with a whole heart, and have done what is good in your sight’. And Hezekiah wept bitterly.” (Is. 38:3).


Just as God heard Hezekiah’s cry and saw his tears: “I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears” (Isa. 38:5) so too God indeed hears your prayers and sees your tears. Isaiah returned with good news, “Behold, I will add fifteen years to your life. I will deliver you and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria, and will defend this city” (Is. 38:5-6). God one ups Hezekiah’s beseeching prayer! God removes his impending death, then he looks beyond Hezekiah’s personal crisis to the deliverance and defense of the city.


As if the promise of physical healing and protection lacked sufficiency in convincing Hezekiah, God also offers to perform a supernatural miracle as confirming a sign: ““This shall be the sign to you from the LORD, that the LORD will do this thing that he has promised: Behold, I will make the shadow cast by the declining sun on the dial of Ahaz turn back ten steps.” So the sun turned back on the dial the ten steps by which it had declined.” (Isa. 38:7-8). As God miraculously turns back time, even so he turns back the clock on Hezekiah’s life – a dramatic sign to wow the king’s heart to trust and belief.


The king arose with gratitude. A song exploded from his mouth, “The LORD will save me, and we will play my music on stringed instruments all the days of our lives, at the house of the LORD” (Is. 38:20).


As if two miracles were not satisfactory for the king, Hezekiah receives a third promise from God for healing in the form of a medicinal application: “Let them take a cake of figs and apply it to the boil, that he may recover.” (Isa. 38:21)


A life well lived extended by God’s grace. Cut credits.


Not so fast.


Two verses later the prince of Babylon sends his envoy with letters and a present to Hezekiah to congratulate him on his recovery. Hezekiah was flattered and thrilled by the attention of his powerful guest whom he looked to impress: “And Hezekiah welcomed them gladly. And he showed them his treasure house, the silver, the gold, the spices, the precious oil, his whole armory, all that was found in his storehouses. There was nothing in his house or in all his realm that Hezekiah did not show them” (Is. 39:2). Hezekiah is preening for the Babylonian throne. And in his posturing, he exposes Israel to an untrustworthy ally.


On the heels of this miraculous healing and a dramatic reversal of supernatural phenomenon, Hezekiah fails miserably because of his unbelief in God. Isaiah returns and sternly prophesies, “Behold, the days are coming, when all that is in your house, and all that which your fathers have stored up till this day, shall be carried to Babylon. Nothing shall be left, says the LORD” (Is. 39:6).


Ninety-nine years after his death, Isaiah’s prophecy would come true: Judah would be pillaged and overthrown by the Babylonians.


Even after receiving a word from the Lord that Israel would be rescued from Assyria and the accompanying confirmations of his miraculous healing, Hezekiah still sought out the back-up plan of Babylon’s protection. And he paid for that back-up plan with the deed of the house of Israel.[i]


Like Esau, Hezekiah sold his birthright for a pot of stew. Both chose the immediate blessing over the ultimate blessing, forsaking the one from whom it came in the process (Heb. 12:16-17)


The pillaging might have taken several generations, but we can trace it back to Hezekiah’s hands. And are we not tempted to lack belief and trust like Hezekiah?

  • ·       We know that our Good Shepherd promises life abundant (Jn 10:10), but we push back our conscience to enjoy that sexual sin just to make sure we don’t miss out.
  • ·       We know God’s assurances that he is sovereign over life (Ps. 139:13), but we utilize ethically problematic birth control or infertility treatment to direct our
  • ·       We know that the Kingdom of God is in God’s hands and is advancing (Lk. 10:9-11), and yet we make ethical compromises politically to try to ensure the outcomes fit what we think best protects us.
  • ·       We know that we are to live for an audience of one (Matt. 6:1-8), and yet, we become like chameleons, speaking half-truths and false peace to gain the approval of others.


Beware the danger of Hezekiah’s pillaging. Knowing the promises of God is not enough, we must hold to them.

[i] Russell Moore makes this point in Losing Our Religion and initiated my reflection in this post.

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