Today, I’d like to make two points from our reading that are, perhaps, more related than they appear on the surface. The first has to do with King Hezekiah’s faith; the second deals with his son Manasseh and his relationship to God.
Hezekiah is considered one of the most righteous kings of Judah with all that he did to honor Yahweh and to lead the people back to Him. We see in 2 Chronicles 31:20-21 the summary of this:
Thus Hezekiah did throughout all Judah, and he did what was good and right and faithful before the Lord his God. And every work that he undertook in the service of the house of God and in accordance with the law and the commandments, seeking his God, he did with all his heart, and prospered.
Immediately following this statement is this one in 2 Chronicles 32:1:
After these things and these acts of faithfulness, Sennacherib king of Assyria came and invaded Judah and encamped against the fortified cities, thinking to win them for himself.
This verse affirms God’s approval of Hezekiah and the blessing that ensued, but what else do we see? Despite that, the enemy came against him. It probably wasn’t what Hezekiah expected for all that he had done to honor God, but he took it in stride at that point because he maintained the proper attitude and perspective toward the Lord. In fact, in this incident of Assyria attempting to come against Judah, look at how Hezekiah responded and what he said to assure the people in 2 Chronicles 32:7-8:
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or dismayed before the king of Assyria and all the horde that is with him, for there are more with us than with him. With him is an arm of flesh, but with us is the Lord our God, to help us and to fight our battles.” And the people took confidence from the words of Hezekiah king of Judah.
Notice the phrase he used: for there are more with us than with him. Where have we seen this before? If you’ve been reading daily, you know that Elisha uttered a similar statement to his servant Gehazi when the then-king of Assyria came to seize him. Because Elisha’s ear was tuned to the Lord, Yahweh spoke to him and revealed all the plans of the enemy, which he then passed on to King Jehoram of Israel to thwart Assyria’s intentions. Amusingly, one of the Assyrian king’s advisors had said to him in 2 Kings 6:12 that:
“… Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the words that you speak in your bedroom.”
It was for this that this king desired to apprehend Elisha. When the Assyrian army advanced on the city where Elisha was, he had no fear because of one very important secret. His servant Gehazi exclaimed how bad things looked, and Elisha replied in 2 Kings 6:16:
He said, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”
He knew that because he was on God’s side, that the armies of the Lord of Hosts surrounded him and protected him. This is exactly what Hezekiah expressed in his similar statement years later. Perhaps he saw the surrounding heavenly host – maybe he didn’t – but he knew they were there because of his faithful relationship with Yahweh.
This is the first point. We may or may not see how God surrounds and protects us in the midst of trouble, but when our hearts are for Him, He will not leave nor forsake us. We can be assured of His presence and protection regardless how dismal things may seem in the natural all around us.
Subsequent to this, Hezekiah’s pride rose up. It appears this is something he struggled with all his days. He got prideful, God’s wrath came upon him, he repented, and God mercifully removed His wrath. However, we see near the end of the account of Hezekiah that God allowed him to fight this internal battle so as to test him (2 Chronicles 32:31). God knows our heart. He may allow us to continually engage with this sin of pride until we master it; if and when we don’t, we incur God’s wrath for the fact that we’ve turned from Him toward self-worship.
The second circumstance I’d like to show you involves King Manasseh. The Bible spares no words describing his wickedness. In the beginning of 2 Chronicles 33 we see that his abominations before God were as bad as those of the pagan nations. In fact, he worshiped the fallen sons of God and all their minions, building altars to them and sacrificing his sons (plural) to them to gain their favor. He completely threw Yahweh out from his personal life and led Judah into great apostasy. Who would think this man could ever get on the right side of God? It certainly appeared as if his soul was eternally damned with the wrath of God upon him.
Because of all that Manasseh did against God, He allowed him to be captured by the king of Assyria and taken to Babylon, where Manasseh endured immense suffering. In this experience, he was completely broken and realized how worthless his dependence was on any other god except Yahweh. He ended up leaving his pride in the dust of Babylon. Consider what 2 Chronicles 33:13 tells us:
He prayed to him, and God was moved by his entreaty and heard his plea and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord was God.
From this absolute humbling of his heart and the repentance that followed, God removed His wrath from upon Manasseh. How do we know his repentance was real and God relented in His wrath? We see the fruit of his salvation in his subsequent actions, as noted in 2 Chronicles 33:15-17. Through these things, he demonstrated that he had truly turned to the Lord. The fruit of salvation, i.e. the works that come from it, is critical, even as James 2:18 tells us in discussing faith and works. Finally, we understand from 2 Chronicles 33:19 how God saw Manasseh afterwards:
And his prayer, and how God was moved by his entreaty…
When the text repeats that God was moved by Manasseh’s humbling of himself and how he proved the change within, we can be assured that his transformation was real.
This was a man who had been thoroughly wicked all his life, yet he turned to God, who heard him, and forgave him. He had been steeped in pride and the worship of false gods for many years; regardless his mind was renewed and his pride broken.
This is the lesson: God will accept anyone into His kingdom, no matter how bad, if he will only humble himself and repent. God may allow us to struggle with pride or other issues in our sin nature, and we must master them.
If we do, eternity is ours.