Tripped Up By Pride

Explore the Bible Series

August 15, 2004

 

Background Passage: II Kings 20:1-21 and II Chronicles 32:24-33

Lesson Passages: II Kings 20:2-5 and 12-19

 

Introduction: As the Apostle Paul anticipated the end of his life, he reflected on his Christian experience in a letter he penned to his young protégé Timothy (See II Timothy 4:6-8).  Standing at the very threshold of death, the apostle was able to write, with Judgment Day honesty, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” Few people, it seems, finish their course with the same zeal with which they begin.  Indeed, the anticipation of death may cause many to turn “weak in the knees” and recoil from the “river that has no bridge.”   John Bunyan, in The Pilgrim’s Progress masterfully described the struggle that many experience when they realize that death approaches quickly.  Some find the river of death to run low, and their passage seems a small thing.  Others tremble as the waters of death wash at their feet, and they wonder if this experience will prove their undoing (See especially the last pages of Book I of Bunyan’s splendid allegory). 

 

King Hezekiah, in the midst of Judah’s terrible trial and miraculous deliverance from the Assyrian threat, became aware of a fatal illness, and the Prophet Isaiah confirmed the king’s fear that his life would soon end. Hezekiah responded to this news as many other believers might.  The realization that he soon would die drove him to fear and despair, and he cried out to the Lord that he might be spared.  Christians can learn much from this experience of Judah’s monarch, and this story affords a valuable opportunity to reflect on the frailty of human life.

 

God spared Hezekiah’s life, and, in response to the Lord’s gracious postponement of the king’s death, Hezekiah lapses into a period of unfortunate pride.  The text demands that modern readers reflect on the particular temptations that may accompany times of earthly comfort and security.  May the Lord’s people finish their course with the same zeal with which they began their pilgrimage to the Celestial City.

 

Major Characters:

            King Hezekiah: The king of Judah must have realized that he was gravely ill at about the same time that the angel of the Lord delivered the Southern Kingdom from the hand of Sennacharib.  Hezekiah had ruled Judah for fourteen years when the Assyrians threatened Jerusalem.  After the king prayed for God’s healing, the Lord granted him fifteen more years of life.  Therefore, this incident must have occurred when Hezekiah was still a relatively young man, perhaps thirty-nine or forty.

            Isaiah the Prophet: The Evangelical Prophet neared the end of his long and faithful ministry when this event occurred.  Rabbinical tradition suggests that Hezekiah’s son, Manasseh, had Isaiah sawn in two during the dismal years of spiritual and moral decline that characterized the wicked king’s reign.

            Berodach-Baladan (also called Merodach-baladan): The Neo-Babylonian Empire began its long ascension to prominence approximately seventy-five years before the reign of Nebuchadnezzar II (r.605-562 B.C.).  Berodach-Baladan posed little threat to the Assyrians at this point in Babylonian history; therefore, Hezekiah may have viewed the Babylonian king as something of an ally against the aggressive forces of Nineveh.  He ruled in Babylon from c. 721-709 B.C.

 

I.                   Hezekiah’s Grave Illness (II Kings 20:1)

 

A.     The time of Hezekiah’s illness                                                                  The Scripture mentions that Hezekiah grew ill, “…in those days.”  This phase indicates that the king’s health declined about the time of Sennacharib’s siege of Judah.  Some have speculated that the illness occurred during the siege, and others conclude that the malady worsened shortly after the angel of the Lord had destroyed the Assyrian army.  The text seems to indicate that the illness occurred before the angel killed the 185,000 Assyrian soldiers.  Whatever the case, Hezekiah’s health declined severely during his fourteenth year as King of Judah.  Since he assumed the throne when he was twenty-five, one could conclude that Hezekiah was approximately thirty-nine years old when he fell ill.

 

The New Testament reminds believers that, at best, life is a fragile and fleeting thing. James, for instance, compares life to a vapor that “…appears for a little time and then vanishes away (James 4:14).”  Job observed, “Man who is born of woman is few of days and full of trouble. He comes forth like a flower and fades away; he flees like a shadow and does not continue…Since his days are determined, the number of his months is with you; you have appointed his limits, so that he cannot pass (Job 14:1-2 and 5).”  The Apostle Peter, quoting from Isaiah, reminded his readers that man’s glory is like the fading flowers and grass of the field.  The splendor of a flower-strewn field, like the glory of man, flourishes for a time; then, withers and dies (I Peter 1:24).

 

B.     The nature of Hezekiah’s illness

The Bible gives little insight into the nature of the fatal illness that troubled the king.  Some have suggested that he had contracted some form of plague.  One author speculated that he had cancer. Whatever the case, II Kings makes clear that this illness had brought Hezekiah to the threshold of death.

 

C.    Isaiah’s confirmation of the King’s illness unto death

God sent the Prophet Isaiah to confirm what Hezekiah must have already anticipated. The king, though still in the prime years of his life, would soon die, and he must set his house in order.

 

Christians should make every effort to prepare for death.  Of course, spiritual preparation must take priority, but believers should also take appropriate steps to lessen the hardship on their families by making due preparation for death.  

 

II.                Hezekiah’s Plea for Healing (II Kings 20:2-3)

A.    The posture of Hezekiah’s prayer (20:2)

The Scriptures do not give much indication of the reason why Hezekiah faced the wall as he prayed.  Perhaps he sought the only solitude his sickbed afforded him; thus, he turned from those who attended to him in his suffering.

                   

B.     The content of Hezekiah’s prayer (20:3)

The king followed the pattern of Hebrew lament in his prayer to Jehovah.

1.      personal devotion and obedience to God

2.      acknowledgement of the Lord’s mercy

3.      recollection of the Lord’s past goodness to his people

 

III.             God’s Answer to the Prayer of Hezekiah (II Kings 20:4-11)

A.    The promise of God’s answer (20:4-6)

God’s answers to prayer do always come as swiftly as they did to the supplications of the king; however, like Hezekiah, God’s people may know that God has heard our prayers.  Though the answer would not come for three days; yet, God gave his promise that the king’s prayer was heard.  The Lord framed his answer in three gracious promises.

1.      God would heal Hezekiah.

2.      Hezekiah’s recovery would enable him to worship God in the Temple in three days.

3.      God would add fifteen years to Hezekiah’s life.

4.      God would deliver the city from the hand of the Assyrians.  This promise seems to indicate that the siege of Jerusalem continued at the time that Hezekiah grew ill.

 

B.     The occasion of Hezekiah’s healing (20:7)

Isaiah demanded that Hezekiah’s attendants make a poultice of figs and placed it on the king’s lesion.

                 

C.    The sign of Hezekiah’s healing (20:8-11)

Hezekiah asked Isaiah for a visible token of God’s pledge that the king would go up to the Temple in three days.  Isaiah answered by giving Hezekiah a choice of signs: the shadow on the sun dial would either move forward ten degrees (steps) or go back ten degrees.  The king chose the latter option, and God granted his request.

 

IV.              Hezekiah’s Sinful Pride Before the King of Babylon  (II Kings 20:12-19)

A.    Hezekiah entertained Berodach-baladan (20:12-13)

The King of Babylon sent get-well gifts to Hezekiah and came to visit Jerusalem on a good will mission.  The gifts apparently flattered Hezekiah, and he opened the city to his fellow monarch without restraint or hesitation.  The situation fed Hezekiah’s pride, and he sinfully displayed his wealth in an unseemly parade of excess.  The text seems to indicate that the king not only showcased his own wealth, but he must have even taken Berodach-baladan to see the treasures of the Temple. 

 

B.     God’s displeasure with Hezekiah’s pride (20:14-19)

1.      Isaiah inquired about the king’s activities with the Babylonians.  Certainly, Isaiah was not seeking information from the king; rather, the prophet’s questions were diagnostic and intended to awaken the conscience of the king.

2.      God pronounced judgment on Hezekiah for his sinful pride.  The riches of Judah would, in due time, fall into the hands of the Babylonians.  Furthermore, judgment would come upon Hezekiah’s family because of this sin.

3.      Hezekiah responded selfishly to the Lord’s judgment. The king seems to concern himself only with his own comfort and safety.  The text indicates that he had little concern for the bequest of destruction he had brought upon his own people.  Christians should give great care to the heritage they leave for generations to come, and Hezekiah seem oblivious to his own sad legacy.

Note: II Chronicles indicates that Hezekiah repented of his sinful pride (See II Chronicles 32:26)

 

V.                 A Summary of the Life and Death of King Hezekiah (II Kings 20:20-21)

A.     The writer of II Kings gave an account of the considerable achievements of the reign of Hezekiah (20:20)

B.     Hezekiah died and his son Manasseh succeeded him on the throne of Judah (20:21)