Hezekiah’s greatest desire was to turn Judah’s people back to the Lord. As soon as he took over as king, he ordered the Temple repaired, cleansed, and reopened.
“The priests went into the sanctuary of the Temple of the Lord to cleanse it, and they took out to the Temple courtyard all the defiled things they found. They began the work in early spring, on the first day of the new year, and in eight days they had reached the entry room of the Lord’s Temple. Then they purified the Temple of the Lord itself, which took another eight days. So the entire task was completed in sixteen days” (II Chronicles 29:16a, 17).
Hezekiah’s strong faith in the power of God made him fearless against Judah’s enemies: “He revolted against the king of Assyria and refused to pay him tribute. He also conquered the Philistines as far distant as Gaza and its territory, from their smallest outpost to their largest walled city” (II Kings 18:7b-8).
The next verses contrast the successes of the God-following Hezekiah and the disastrous results of Hoshea’s idolatry: “During the fourth year of Hezekiah’s reign, which was the seventh year of King Hoshea’s reign in Israel, King Shalmaneser of Assyria attacked the city of Samaria and began a siege against it. Three years later, during the sixth year of King Hezekiah’s reign and the ninth year of King Hoshea’s reign in Israel, Samaria fell. At that time the king of Assyria exiled the Israelites to Assyria… For they refused to listen to the Lord their God and obey Him. Instead, they violated His covenant” (II Kings 18:9-11a, 12a).
Back in Judah, though, Hezekiah was obeying God and restoring His blessings to the people. “The Levites went to King Hezekiah and gave him this report: ‘We have cleansed the entire Temple of the Lord, the altar of burnt offering with all its utensils, and the table of the Bread of the Presence with all its utensils. We have also recovered all the items discarded by King Ahaz when he was unfaithful and closed the Temple. They are now in front of the altar of the Lord, purified and ready for use.’
Early the next morning King Hezekiah gathered the city officials and went to the Temple of the Lord. They brought seven bulls, seven rams, and seven male lambs as a burnt offering, together with seven male goats as a sin offering for the kingdom, for the Temple, and for Judah. The king commanded the priests, who were descendants of Aaron, to sacrifice the animals on the altar of the Lord.
So they killed the bulls, and the priests took the blood and sprinkled it on the altar. Next they killed the rams and sprinkled their blood on the altar. And finally, they did the same with the male lambs. The male goats for the sin offering were then brought before the king and the assembly of people, who laid their hands on them. The priests then killed the goats as a sin offering and sprinkled their blood on the altar to make atonement for the sins of all Israel. The king had specifically commanded that this burnt offering and sin offering should be made for all Israel” (II Chronicles 29:18-24).
“For all Israel.” Israel, Judah’s own brothers, had invaded Judah and treated the people appallingly – see Second Chronicles 28:5-15. Yet the compassionate heart of Hezekiah insisted that the “sin offering should be made for all Israel.” Hezekiah was in no way prideful of Judah’s prosperity at a time when Israel was falling apart. Instead, he prayed for the repentance and restoration of all God’s people.
Hezekiah looked at what was happening to Israel and at Judah’s track record with God and immediately realized, there but for the grace of God goes Judah. Hezekiah’s good heart, attuned to the Father, lived out the words of the Savior: “Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:44a).
When’s the last time you prayed for an enemy?
Copyright © 2013
Judy Woodward Bates