Wednesday, March 29, 2023

2023.03.29 Hopewell @Home ▫ 2 Kings 20:12–21

Read 2 Kings 20:12–21

Questions from the Scripture text: Who sends what two things to Hezekiah in 2 Kings 20:12? What had he heard? How does Hezekiah respond to the messengers in 2 Kings 20:13? What five specific things does he show them? What does he refrain from showing? From where? Who goes to Hezekiah in 2 Kings 20:14? What two things does he ask about the men? Which one of those two things does Hezekiah answer? What is his answer? Then what does Isaiah ask in 2 Kings 20:15a? How does Hezekiah answer (verse 15b)? What hadn’t Hezekiah asked for, but now receives (2 Kings 20:16)? How does the quantity of what 2 Kings 20:17 addresses correspond to 2 Kings 20:132 Kings 20:15b? What will happen to it all? What (whom) else will they take away (2 Kings 20:18)? What will happen to them? What does Hezekiah think of this word (2 Kings 20:19)? Why—what will there be? When? Where does 2 Kings 20:20 say one may find what? What did Hezekiah do in 2 Kings 20:21? Who reigned in his place?

How do pride and folly go hand-in-hand? 2 Kings 20:12–21 looks forward to the first serial reading in morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In these ten verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that the pride that wishes for others to be impressed with us goes hand-in-hand with the folly that destroys ourselves and those entrusted to our care. 

Godly people can make costly mistakes, but they have a merciful God.

Godly people. Hezekiah has enjoyed the fruit of looking to the Lord in prayer (2 Kings 20:1-11), and he is a man who can recognize when the Lord is being merciful to him (2 Kings 20:19). When we get to his closing formula in 2 Kings 20:20, we’re reminded of how the Lord introduced him in 2 Kings 18:1–18. “He did what was right in the sight of Yahweh, according to all that his father David had done” (2 Kings 18:3). “He trusted in Yahweh[…] held fast to Yahweh[…] did not depart from following Him, but kept His commandments” (2 Kings 18:5, 2 Kings 18:6). 

Yes, he stumbled in some things, as he does here. But we ought to read his account according to the Spirit’s own general assessment. His verdict will affect how we read the Lord’s Word in 2 Kings 20:17-18 and Hezekiah’s response in 2 Kings 20:19

And His verdict encourages us, as we walk with the Lord, that although we may make costly mistakes, there is such a thing as imperfect godliness that God commends. This is not because God grades on a curve, but because whenever we find real godliness mixed with believers’ sinfulness and imprudence, we know where it came from. 

Whatever godliness is there must have come from God Himself. And He is not so unjust as to overlook it, but rather merciful to reward it for the sake of His grace which produced it. Real godliness, though imperfect in the believer, comes from the perfect God. And He is truly pleased with it. And He responds to it in a way that makes a real difference. We will see that difference when we come to consider “A merciful God” below.

Costly mistakes. While this encourages us not to despair over our imperfections, we must nevertheless not grow tolerant of our sin or foolishness. For, these are real and have real consequences. The key to 2 Kings 20:12 is what came with the “present.” The word is a word for “offering” or “tribute,” which helps us understand the “letters” in verse 12 and Hezekiah’s behavior in 2 Kings 20:13

Apparently, the envoys carried official diplomatic documents offering Hezekiah an alliance with Babylon if Israel was up to snuff. That’s why Hezekiah would make sure to show the envoys every last thing that he had (2 Kings 20:13) and not be ashamed to tell Isaiah that he had done what he thought was an excellent job of enlisting the most powerful anti-Assyrian ally (2 Kings 20:14-15). 

But Hezekiah would indubitably have known of Isaiah’s teaching about Egypt in Isaiah 30:1–3, which had corresponded to the situation back in 2 Kings 18:19–21. Isaiah 30:2 zeroed in not on forming the alliance, per se, but that Yahweh was not consulted about it.

That’s why 2 Kings 20:16 must have stopped Hezekiah in his tracks “Hear the word of Yahweh.”  A second time, the king had run headlong into something without consulting the word of the Lord. Now, we are not kings over Yahweh’s people and do not have a prophet of Yahweh assigned to us. 

But we do have the completed, sufficient Old and New Testament Scriptures. (cf. John 16:12–14; 1 Corinthians 13:8–10; 2 Timothy 3:14–17). And we do have particular shepherd-teachers assigned to us (cf. Acts 20:28; Hebrews 13:7–9, Hebrews 13:17; Ephesians 4:11–14). And we have an entire body of Christ who have been assigned specifically to us for our engagement and building up into Christ (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:18, 1 Corinthians 12:24–25; Ephesians 4:15–16). Shall we make any important decision without refreshing ourselves in the Scriptures that touch it, consulting the undershepherds assigned to us, and keeping ourselves current in our participation in the body?

Though Hezekiah was a godly king, this error was profoundly costly. It will turn out to be the means by which Babylon gains much of its intel for plundering and enslaving Israel (2 Kings 20:17-18). Manasseh is the wicked one who irrevocably provokes Yahweh to the judgment of the Babylonian exile (cf. 2 Kings 21:1–18). But Hezekiah’s mistake will end up being a big part of how it ends up happening. 

The mistakes of the godly have real consequences, and they can be very costly indeed. Let them learn, then, that love to God and brother and neighbor demands walking in wisdom. It demands constant meditation upon God’s Word and humbly availing ourselves of the ministry of God’s assigned servants. And the godly will also be praying that the Lord will be merciful to spare them, and those under them, from the costliness of their mistakes. For, we will make many of them. But how often, God has softened the brunt of the blow, or even spared the harm altogether. How great is His mercy!

A merciful God. We are so sluggish toward God’s mercy that we are unable to see it in 2 Kings 20:18. After Isaiah 30:1–5, Isaiah 31:1–3, and how that dalliance with Egypt resulted in the back-breaking, terrifying siege of Assyria (cf. 2 Kings 18:9–19:19), Hezekiah has done it again. And now, rather than annihilate Judah immediately, the Lord’s response will not come for at least fifteen years. Hezekiah’s prior reprieve had included deliverance from Assyria (2 Kings 19:6), and now it will also include deliverance from Babylon! This is a great mercy. Some are tempted to read the response in 2 Kings 20:17-18 as severe. But to them Hezekiah might anachronistically quote some now famous words: “what’s wrong with you people?!”

To this mercy of reprieve, the Lord adds the mercy of humility—the mercy of sanctified eyes with which to see the mercy in the midst of the judgment. Even after he has done what had previously so provoked God, the Lord comes back with a merciful word. God is good, and this word has been good. Taken in the context of 2 Kings 18-20 as a whole, rounded out from the book of Isaiah, 2 Kings 20:19b is not indifference toward the plight of Hezekiah’s sons. Rather, it is an amazement at the mercy of God, even after another offense such as he has just committed. The Lord is always being overwhelmingly merciful to us. O that His Spirit would give us the eyes to see just how great that mercy has been!

And of course, once the mercies that we and the visible church receive in this world, there is an infinitely greater and longer mercy to come for those who are in Christ. In mercy, the Lord gave him a useful life (2 Kings 20:20). Man’s greatness is small, so the extra details went into a non-Scripture book. But that small greatness comes in God’s big mercy. Manasseh is coming (2 Kings 20:21), but the final word on a believer is that when he dies the death of the righteous (cf. Numbers 23:10–11, Psalm 116:15–16), he joins the souls of the just made perfect (cf. Hebrews 12:23; Philippians 3:12; Revelation 6:9–11). What a merciful God!

What is your habit of consulting the Scriptures about decisions? What is your habit for consulting the shepherd-teachers and overseers specifically assigned to you? What is your habit for keeping your participation in Christ’s earthly body “current”? What are some mistakes that you have made that God has spared you and others the brunt of? When have you been thankful under a difficult providence that was more merciful than you deserved?

Sample prayer: Lord, truly You are merciful to Your people. We, like Hezekiah, are often foolish. We forget the costliness of our past sins and errors. And we stumble right back into the same sin. How often You have given us a reprieve like the 15 years of peace that Judah enjoyed! Forgive us when, under a painful providence, we forget that You are truly sparing us more than we can imagine. And sanctify our hearts to see Your goodness and call it good, we ask, through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP1 “How Blessed the Man” or TPH169 “Master, Speak! Thy Servant Heareth”

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