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King Hezekiah Sets the Bar for Obedience

Last Sunday we started a new sermon series entitled “Lessons from the Kings”. Throughout the summer months we’re going to be looking at – not all, but several, of the kings of Israel. And we kicked it all off last week with the very first king of Israel – King Saul.

Unfortunately, Saul didn’t leave us much of an example to follow. The lesson we learned was more of a ‘what not to do’ – as Saul blatantly disobeyed the command of the Lord.

But this morning, we’re going to get a better role model. We’re going to fast forward through time to King Hezekiah. Now King Hezekiah isn’t one of the Bible’s most famous characters – but he was one of Israel’s best and most Godly kings.

Just so you know, in this series, we aren’t going though the kings chronologically. Hezekiah does not immediately follow Saul on the timeline. In fact, he’s much closer to the end of the timeline than the beginning. But just before we start looking at King Hezekiah – we need to know a bit about his father – King Ahaz. So if you have your Bibles, turn with me to 2 Chronicles 28. This chapter gives us a good snapshot of what kind of a king King Ahaz was.

Ahaz was twenty years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem sixteen years. He did not do what was pleasing in the sight of the Lord, as his ancestor David had done. 2 Instead, he followed the example of the kings of Israel. He cast metal images for the worship of Baal. 3 He offered sacrifices in the valley of Ben-Hinnom, even sacrificing his own sons in the fire. In this way, he followed the detestable practices of the pagan nations the Lord had driven from the land ahead of the Israelites.
2 Chronicles 28:1-3

This is Hezekiah’s dad. From the picture that the Bible is painting for us, we can see that King Ahaz was clearly not a good king. He did NOT do what was pleasing in God’s sight. It even says that he even sacrificed his own sons to the false gods that he worshipped.

Now if we were to keep reading chapter 28, we’d see how, because of King Ahaz’s sin, God allowed several different nations to invade Judah and cause mass destruction. But even this didn’t make King Ahaz change his ways – we read in verse 22…

Even during this time of trouble, King Ahaz continued to reject the Lord.23 He offered sacrifices to the gods of Damascus who had defeated him, for he said, “Since these gods helped the kings of Aram, they will help me, too, if I sacrifice to them.” But instead, they led to his ruin and the ruin of all Judah.
24 The king took the various articles from the Temple of God and broke them into pieces. He shut the doors of the Lord’s Temple so that no one could worship there, and he set up altars to pagan gods in every corner of Jerusalem. 25 He made pagan shrines in all the towns of Judah for offering sacrifices to other gods. In this way, he aroused the anger of the Lord, the God of his ancestors.
2 Chronicles 28:22-25

So King Ahaz, Hezekiah’s dad, had no regard for the true God of heaven. Instead, he was an idol worshipper – worshipping not just one false god – but many – even sacrificing his own sons to them. The Bible also tells us that he closed the doors to the temple to keep people from worshipping God. Without access to the temple, the people & the priests couldn’t offer their sacrifices and their offerings to God. They couldn’t worship God in the way that God had prescribed to them through Moses years ago. And in place of the temple, King Ahaz set up pagan shrines all over the country so people could offer sacrifices to other gods. He basically did everything possible to lead his country away from God.

And this was all happening as Hezekiah was growing up. These are the stories of his childhood. He would have seen his father worshipping the statues of Baal. He may have witnessed his own brothers being sacrificed in the fire to the false god they called Molech. He would have seen and maybe even fought in the many battles that took place as foreign enemies invaded his country because of his father’s sin. He would have seen the doors of the temple bolted shut and the people offering sacrifices on every street corner to all the false gods of the nations around them.

This is the world in which King Hezekiah grew up. And I think that’s what makes his story so amazing.

The Bible actually records Hezekiah’s story three times. Once in Kings, once in Chronicles, and once in Isaiah. For now, let’s look at 2 Kings chapter 18. This kinda gives us a summary of his life. 2 Kings 18 – starting at verse 5.

Hezekiah trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before or after his time. 6 He remained faithful to the Lord in everything, and he carefully obeyed all the commands the Lord had given Moses. 7 So the Lord was with him, and Hezekiah was successful in everything he did.
2 Kings 18:5-7

Whoa. What a contrast between him and his dad! While his father “continued to reject the Lord” – Hezekiah “remained faithful to the Lord in everything”. Isn’t that awesome? What an excellent reminder to us that we aren’t just the product of our environment – that our upbringing and our circumstances don’t determine who we become.

You see, Hezekiah grew up in a totally godless environment. His father did everything possible to remove God from the land. I’m sure Hezekiah would have been taught to worship the idols of his father and to pray to all these different gods (except course, to the one true God.) He would have been conditioned to follow the ways of his godless father. But that’s not what happened.

Somehow, despite his dysfunctional family, despite his godless upbringing, despite all his negative circumstances – He grew up to be a man of godly character. A great king. Faithful to God in everything. Successful in all he did.

And perhaps some of us can relate to Hezekiah. I know many of us grew up in Christian homes with godly parents, but I also know many of you didn’t. Some of your parents weren’t the most godly examples. Some of you grew up in a home where “Jesus Christ” was simply a swear word. Some of you attended school with peers that had absolutely no respect for God. Some of you work at a job where no one else loves the Lord. You can relate to Hezekiah growing up in a godless environment.

But as Hezekiah proves for us, your environment that doesn’t determine who you become. Just because all the people around you refuse to acknowledge God, doesn’t mean that you have to do likewise. Like Hezekiah, you can be different. You can take a stand. You can make your life count.

I love that phrase in verse 5 where it says of Hezekiah – “There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before or after his time.” Wouldn’t that be awesome to have that said of you? There was no one like you among all your friends and all your family and all your peers – no one that loved and served God like you.

Do you think that’s possible? Do you think that, despite your circumstances, despite the environment that you find yourself in right now, that you could be the person that sets the bar for a godly life? That sets the standard for a life well-pleasing to God? That sets the example for everyone else to follow for how to be faithful to God in everything? Could you be that person?

I have no doubt, that by the grace and the power of God, that you could.

And in fact, Hezekiah shows us how. In 2 Chronicles chapters 29 – 31, we read an account of the first things that Hezekiah did when he became king and this passage contains some key principles for becoming the kind of person that sets the bar for faithfulness and obedience to God. Look at 2 Chronicles 29 verse 3.

3 In the very first month of the first year of his reign, Hezekiah reopened the doors of the Temple of the Lord and repaired them. 2 Chronicles 29:3

There’s our first principle right there. Notice: In the very first month of the first year of his reign, Hezekiah reopened the doors of the Temple of the Lord and repaired them.

Remember, his father, King Ahaz, had closed up the temple. For years the people had been unable to worship God at the temple as God had required. But as soon as Hezekiah became King, he acted immediately and reopened the doors of the temple. That was first item on his agenda. Hezekiah knew there was nothing more important than restoring their relationship with God, and so he acted immediately.

He didn’t delay. He didn’t put it off until he was better established as king. I’m sure that taking over the leadership of a country is a very involved process, but He didn’t wait until he got caught up on everything else. He made the decision to follow God and acted on that immediately.

And I would encourage you to do likewise. Act immediately. If you want to live the kind of life that sets the bar for faithfulness and obedience to God, then you have to make that decision today. Delayed obedience is disobedience.

I don’t know where all of you are in your journey with God this morning, but if God’s been asking you to take one more step in that journey, then I encourage you to do that immediately.

If you’ve never accepted Christ as your Saviour – maybe you’ve been thinking about it, but you just haven’t made that decision yet, do it today. Act immediately. Confess to God that you are a sinner, accept his unconditional forgiveness and love, and invite Him to direct your life from this point on. Don’t put it off any longer.

Or maybe God’s calling you to take a further step of obedience. I had the pleasure of meeting with four people a couple weeks ago who all want to be baptized later this summer. They’ve made the decision to act immediately. They’re not going to put it off any longer. Perhaps God’s asking you to likewise. If that’s the case, I encourage you to come talk to me after the service. I’d be happy to add one more person to our upcoming baptism.

Or maybe the next step in your journey is a deeper relationship with God. Maybe you’ve been thinking about getting into your Bible more – or starting a Scripture memorization program – or spending more time in prayer – maybe getting together with someone for encouragement and accountability. If that’s the next step you need to take, then make the decision to do it immediately. Stop putting it off. Take whatever steps you need to take to make it happen.

Maybe you’ve got a relationship that you’ve got to make right – do it immediately.
Maybe you’ve got someone to forgive or someone to ask for forgiveness – stop putting it off.
Maybe there is someone that you need to share God’s love with – whatever it is that God is asking you to do – follow the example of Hezekiah, and make the decision to do it immediately.

Hezekiah knew what he had to do, and so he made the decision to do it immediately. That’s principle #1.

The second principle that we find was that Hezekiah followed through on his decision. And this is so key. So often we make a decision with every good intention, but because we don’t take any specific steps towards making it happen, we never actually follow through. But not Hezekiah.

The next three chapters basically tell us all the things that Hezekiah did so that the Israelites could again worship God according to the instructions that God had given Moses.

I won’t read all three chapters, but let me just give you a quick sampling from chapter 29 – starting at verse 4

“He summoned the priests and Levites to meet him at the courtyard east of the Temple. 5 He said to them, “Listen to me, you Levites! Purify yourselves, and purify the Temple of the Lord, the God of your ancestors. Remove all the defiled things from the sanctuary. Our ancestors were unfaithful and did what was evil in the sight of the Lord our God. They abandoned the Lord and his dwelling place; they turned their backs on him. 7 They also shut the doors to the Temple’s entry room, and they snuffed out the lamps. They stopped burning incense and presenting burnt offerings at the sanctuary of the God of Israel.
8 “That is why the Lord’s anger has fallen upon Judah and Jerusalem. He has made them an object of dread, horror, and ridicule, as you can see with your own eyes. 9 Because of this, our fathers have been killed in battle, and our sons and daughters and wives have been captured. 10 But now I will make a covenant with the Lord, the God of Israel, so that his fierce anger will turn away from us. 11 My sons, do not neglect your duties any longer! The Lord has chosen you to stand in his presence, to minister to him, and to lead the people in worship and present offerings to him.”
12 Then these Levites got right to work:
From the clan of Kohath: Mahath son of Amasai and Joel son of Azariah.?From the clan of Merari: Kish son of Abdi and Azariah son of Jehallelel.?From the clan of Gershon: Joah son of Zimmah and Eden son of Joah.
13 From the family of Elizaphan: Shimri and Jeiel.?From the family of Asaph: Zechariah and Mattaniah.
14 From the family of Heman: Jehiel and Shimei.?From the family of Jeduthun: Shemaiah and Uzziel.
15 These men called together their fellow Levites, and they all purified themselves. Then they began to cleanse the Temple of the Lord, just as the king had commanded. They were careful to follow all the Lord’s instructions in their work. 16 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. From there the Levites carted it all out to the Kidron Valley.
17 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.” 2 Chronicles 29:4-17

You see that? He didn’t just decide to re-open the temple. He took specific steps to make sure that it happened.

As you read through the rest of the following chapters, you see Hezekiah instructing the Levites to resume offering the prescribed sacrifices, and re-instating the Passover celebration, removing all the pagan shrines and sacred pillars from the land. He takes all the steps necessary to follow through on his decision to obey God.

We have to do that too. Don’t just make a decision with good intentions – follow through.

  • If you decide that you want to accept Christ as your Saviour this morning – great! Why don’t you ask someone to pray with you right after the service this morning? Follow through on your decision.
  • If you decide that you want to follow Christ in Baptism this summer – great! Don’t leave this building until you’ve come and talked with me about it. Follow through on your decision.
  • If you decide that you want to memorize a verse a week for the next year – great! Why not challenge the person beside you to do it with you. Take steps to follow through on your decision.
  • If you decide that you need to ask someone for forgiveness – great! Don’t go to bed tonight until you’ve called that person up and made things right. Follow through on your decision.

You see, making the decision to obey God is relatively easy – following through on that decision is the tough part. But that’s exactly what it takes to become a person who sets the bar for faithfulness and obedience to God.

If we were to take the time to read the rest of chapter 29, and then 30, and then 31 – we’d see all the things that Hezekiah did to follow through on his decision to faithfully obey God. And at the end of it all, we read in chapter 31 – verse 21…

“In all that he did in the service of the Temple of God and in his efforts to follow God’s laws and commands, Hezekiah sought his God wholeheartedly. As a result, he was very successful.” 2 Chronicles 31:21

Isn’t that the description you want to have for your life? When all is said and done and people read the story of my life years down the road, I want them to come to the conclusion – “Dave Trenholm sought his God wholeheartly.” “Dustin Rider sought his God wholeheartly.” Kayla Watt sought her God wholeheartly. Jim Mackenzie sought his God wholeheartly.

Isn’t that the description you want of your life?

I know that some of you have had a rough start. Maybe you had a poor upbringing or you’ve been through difficult circumstances, or maybe you’ve had a history of making poor decisions in the past. But that doesn’t discount you from deciding right now to live a life of faithfulness and obedience to God from here on in.

Despite your circumstances, despite the environment that you find yourself in right now, like Hezekiah, you can be the person that sets the bar for a godly life. Like Hezekiah, You can be the person who sets the example for everyone else to follow for how to be faithful to God in everything. You can be that person.

If you want to be that person, then I have a two-fold question for you this morning:

#1. What step of obedience is God asking you to take? What is it that you know you need to do, but you’ve been putting it off? Can I encourage you, don’t put it off any longer. Make the decision today.

And then the second part is: Now that you’ve made that decision – what steps are you going to take to follow through? What specific, immediate actions are you going to take to make sure that it happens?

Be like Hezekiah. Make the decision. Follow through. Seek your God wholeheartly.

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