By Kevin Freeman
Read 2 Kings 18:1-8
Courage in the Life of Hezekiah
Spend a little time in a culture and you will discover what its people value. One way to learn this is simply to ask, What do they build? If you ask that question in the United States, you will quickly realize that we Americans sure do value fast food! Other buildings that litter our landscape include convenience pharmacies like CVS, Walgreens, or Rite Aid. Our stadiums, arenas, and athletic fields reveal the high value we place on sports, and for some reason, we seem to like it when our gas stations also specialize in breakfast biscuits, nachos, and an ever-growing assortment of beverages. When we stop in for a fill-up, we also want a fill-up. Ethanol and octane go well with sugar and caffeine.
Recently, I went on a mission trip to India and observed the buildings and considered what the people value. Fast food restaurants like McDonald’s and KFC are less common but on the rise. There are multiple city bus systems in a single city, each serving a different income level — a reminder that the caste system still has roots in the culture. What stuck out the most, though, were India’s temples. I saw oodles of them while in the state of Tamil Nadu (India has twenty-nine states). According to the Tamil Nadu Hindu Endowments Board records, the state has 44,121 temples! More than two million temples nationwide were recorded during the 2001 census, and the number is said to be on the rise. Many of them are roadside temples, allowing worshipers to pull over, express their devotions, and be on their way.
In seeing these temples, I felt like I was stepping into Old Testament times. In 2 Kings 17:10, we read of Israel building temples and religious pillars “on every high hill and under every spreading tree.” This is exactly what is found in India. The rugged south has a temple on almost every rocky hill. I saw the branches of trees adorned with cloths to ward off evil, and under them, a small god. I even saw one family’s household god, which reminded me of Rachel swiping her father’s gods.
Young Hezekiah ascended the throne in Judah when idolatry had become so toxic that it threatened to destroy the nation. In fact, during Hezekiah’s fourth year, Israel to the north was invaded and defeated precisely because of their idolatry. Hezekiah’s ancestry was a mixed bag when it came to following God. His father, Ahaz, sacrificed to false gods and even sacrificed his own son! Hezekiah’s grandfather, Jotham, and great-grandfather, Azariah, both did right in God’s eyes, but they never did anything about the idolatry on the high places. The culture was so entrenched in these idolatrous practices that these good kings perhaps feared the consequences of taking away the idols.
Not Hezekiah. He did not simply do what was right in God’s eyes. Scripture says he clung to God. He held tightly to the one true God. We are told Hezekiah trusted God so much that there was no king of Judah like him before or after his reign. In fact, he is said to have followed God like his father, David, not Ahaz. Hezekiah would not be defined by his immediate father but instead chose to emulate his ancestor, David, who was close to God’s own heart.
Instead of making a political decision to give the people what they want by leaving the idols in place, Hezekiah dangerously chose to tear them all down. Imagine the uproar! People must have been aghast as soldiers carried out the order to cut down sacred pillars and destroy altars. This was not a popular move. Do you remember the bronze serpent that God had Moses fashion while Israel was in the wilderness? Those who looked on it were healed from the poison of the vipers. Hezekiah broke this relic – this national treasure – into three pieces because it had become an object of worship. The point is clear: Anything that gets in the way of following God must be removed.
Hezekiah did for Judah what we must do in our own lives. The clutter of the nation’s idols mirrors the distracting clutter in our lives that threatens to choke out our devotion to God. Many of us are like the hoarder whose house is difficult and even dangerous to navigate. What needs to be rooted out and removed in your life? You likely don’t have a household idol, per se, but is that rectangle on the wall of your den taking too much of your attention with all its shows and programs? It is likely the smaller rectangle, which fits in your hand and is likely never far away, that captivates your focus.
Judah was not guilty of no longer believing in God. They even continued to worship at the temple. They were guilty of allocating a sliver of their lives to God while giving other gods – other pursuits – a sizeable section of their time. God is clear that he wants all of us, not a sliver. The divided believer is the defeated believer.
Is your devotion to God wholehearted? Would you be willing to remove even the good things in your life so you can cling more to God? If you are a news junkie, become a Good News junkie. If you are a sports fanatic, become a religious fanatic. Evaluate what takes up most of your time and take it away if it keeps you from God.
Crisis reveals our character and our preparation. It can also cause us to reevaluate our priorities. This is God’s prodding to Christians who have been lulled to sleep and have forgotten we are in a war zone. It’s time for renewal…and maybe a fair amount of demolition.
Apart from work and sleep, what are the top five ways you spend your time?
Which of those ways is most distracting to your spiritual life?
Mark where you believe your spiritual health is below.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Least healthy Most healthy
What is one change you can make to improve your spiritual health?
Not all bronze serpents need to be destroyed. God has given each of us hobbies, passions, and dreams to pursue. What in your life could you renew your focus on to pursue for God’s glory?
How do you plan to renew that focus?
Putting it into Practice
Memorize 2 Corinthians 5:15
Uninstall your time-wasting phone apps. Designate twenty minutes morning and evening to be on the phone. All other times only use your phone for calling.
Choose one activity to get rid of this week and replace it with time in God’s Word, prayer, listening to Christian music, or reading or watching Christian material.
Clutter kills. God is calling you to root out the clutter in your life that keeps you from devotion to him.
What do you find most striking about Hezekiah’s reforms?
How do you think the people responded to the forced destruction of their idols?
God’s response to Hezekiah is described in 2 Kings 18:7. He was with Hezekiah wherever he went and he allowed Hezekiah to prosper in all his endeavors. How have you seen God do the same for those who trust God the way Hezekiah did?
What barriers to spiritual health have you discovered in your own life?
What is one change you plan to make this week in response to this study?
Courage for Crisis is a series of devotionals by Kevin Freeman, associate pastor at Redland Baptist Church in Rockville, Maryland.