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HEZEKIAH’S SICKNESS AND RECOVERY
CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES.—
2 Kings 20:1. In those days was Hezekiah sick—The Assyrian invasion occurred in the fourteenth year of his reign (2 Kings 18:13), and now fifteen more years are to be added (2 Kings 20:6), making twenty-nine years, the total length of his reign (2 Kings 18:2); therefore this sickness must have occurred the very year of the invasion—“in those days”—at which time he was thirty-nine years of age. Set thine house in order—Not his domestic affairs, but those of his kingdom, for being without a child, his successor should be selected.
2 Kings 20:3. Hezekiah wept sore—So painful is it to quit life in the very prime of years; but the distress was to him greater because of the fierce menaces of the foe at the gates of his kingdom; and his plans for the religious reformation of the nation were yet incomplete.
2 Kings 20:4. Before Isaiah was gone out into the middle court—i.e., of the royal castle, not of the temple.
2 Kings 20:6. Add to thy days fifteen years—Why fifteen? He was now in the fifteenth year of his reign; God would add an equal period to that he had already enjoyed. He thus stood midway between the beginning and end of his reign.
2 Kings 20:7. Take a lump of figs—The remedy does not determine the precise character of the ailment, for Orientalists apply a poultice of figs to plague boils, and inflammatory ulcers, and carbuncles. But it was so located as certain to prove fatal but for miraculous intervention.
2 Kings 20:10. Let the shadow return backward ten degrees—This miracle has created antagonistic criticism. Either Isaiah, knowing that there would be a partial eclipse of the sun at that time, shrewdly used his knowledge; or else the story of the shadows being deflected is a myth! But the result was possible without any violent derangement of nature—“a phenomenon of refraction in the rays of light” (Keil) would effect the sign required. Yet. accepting the miracle in its most supernatural form, the phenomenon was so local and temporary as to carry with it no disturbance of universal nature.
2 Kings 20:11. The dial of Ahaz—מַעֲלוֹת may be interpreted steps, for מַעֲלָה means an ascent, or that which ascends. It can therefore be imagined that some contrivance had been arranged so that the shadow fell on a succession of steps, or slopes, each so measured as to mark the hour of the day. It was of such dimensions, and so conspicuous an object in the court, that Isaiah could point to it, and Hezekiah see it from his sick chamber.
HOMILETICS OF 2 Kings 20:1-11
LIFE PROLONGED IN ANSWER TO PRAYER
THE anxiety of the people was now transferred from the nation, so miraculously delivered, to the monarch. Hezekiah was smitten with a fatal sickness—perhaps he had been suffering for some time, and the mental anguish through which he had lately passed would tend to exacerbate the disease. He is startled to be informed that his recovery is hopeless. With cries and tears he pleads for life. He is heard, and fifteen more years are added to his career. A miracle is wrought in confirmation of the Divine promise of recovery. How highly favoured is this man for whom Jehovah so freely exercises his miraculous power Observe—
I. That the sudden approach of death fills the stoutest heart with alarm and sorrow. Death is a painful shock at any time; but, while cherishing the hope of recovery, to be abruptly assured that death is inevitable and at hand, strikes terror into the bravest heart. Hezekiah was utterly prostrate. “With that plaintive tenderness of character which he seems to have inherited from his great ancestor, he could not bear to part with life. He turned his face away from the light of day to the blank wall of his chamber. He broke into a passionate burst of tears. The darkness of the grave was before him, with nothing to cheer him. His tent was struck, his thread of life severed. The cry of a dying lion, the plaintive murmur of a wounded dove, were the only sounds that could be heard from the sick chamber. There seemed no hope of recovery” (Stanley’s Paraphrase of Isaiah 38:0)
Sooner or later all things pass away
And are no more. The beggar and the king
With equal steps tread forward to their end.
II. That there are circumstances in which prayer for continued life is justifiable. Hezekiah was in the prime of life, and with, to all natural appearances, years of useful labour before him. He had succeeded to the throne in a time of national decay, and his spirited reforms had done much to restore the national prestige. He had been rescued from great troubles, and was now in a position to look forward hopefully to a period of rest, peace, and prosperity. He was eager to do more than ever he had done for his beloved country. When, therefore, he is brought unexpectedly face to face with death, we cannot wonder that he should ask for life. Life is sweet; with all its burdens and cares, it has its enjoyments. It is a positive luxury to live. And when the powers of life are sacredly devoted to promoting the good of others, we cannot but yearn for the opportunity which continued life affords. But when wrongs have to be righted and faults rectified, how necessary and precious does life then become. Zimmerman remarks, “There appears to exist a greater desire to live long than to live well. Measure by man’s desires, he cannot live long enough; measure by his good deeds, and he has not lived long enough; measure by his evil deeds, and he has lived too long.”
III. That life and death are absolutely in the Divine disposal.
1. The best natural remedies are futile without the Divine blessing. The poultice of figs would have had no efficacy if the Lord of life had refused to interfere. Hezekiah knew this well, and he appeals immediately and directly, not to the physician, but to God. In His hands are the issues of life, and on Him they depend for their continuous outflow. “Every one,” says a certain writer, “is willing to allow that he received his life originally from the Almighty, and that the Almighty takes it away from him when He pleases. Few, however, are willing to regard themselves as existing only by virtue of His constant influx, the only way in which it can be true that in Him we live and move and have our being.” It is our duty to do all in our power to prolong life; but our best efforts must ever be in subordination to the will of God.
2. The Lord condescends to confirm the faith of His servants by the exercise of miraculous power. The transition to life was to Hezekiah as sudden and unexpected as the prospect of death. To possess what a few moments before he despaired about, seemed incredible: it was too good to be true. His faith staggered, and he asked for a sign. The shadow of the dial, visible from the window of the king’s palace, was put back ten degrees, probably by refraction—none the less a Divine act—and Hezekiah could no longer doubt. He recovered at once, and in three days passed up the steps in royal procession to the Temple to offer thanks and praise to the Lord and Giver of Life. How slow we are to believe, and how painstaking and patient is our gracious Father in encouraging us to trust Him!
1. A time of sickness is a time for special prayer.
2. God has a profound interest in the sufferings and sorrows of His people.
3. Restored health should be used in increased devotion to the service of God.
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES
2 Kings 20:1 and 2 Kings 20:5. “Thou shalt die, and not live.” “I will heal thee.” The two messages.
1. How different their import—the one announcing death, the other promising life.
2. How different their effects—the one creating sorrow, the other joy.
3. Both emanating from the same authority.
4. Both demanding undoubted faith.
2 Kings 20:1. As it is wise, in time of health and strength, to set one’s house in order in a worldly sense—i.e., to make one’s will and arrange one’s affairs—so is it still more wise to set one’s house in order in a spiritual sense, and not to put off making one’s peace with God until one stands on the brink of the grave.—Lange.
2 Kings 20:3. Conspicuous piety.
1. Gives no immunity from sickness or death.
2. Is often severely tested.
3. Should guard against self-righteous boasting.
4. Leads the troubled soul to God.
—The course of Hezekiah’s thoughts was evidently directed to the promise made to David and his successors on the throne (1 Kings 8:25). He had kept the conditions as faithfully as human infirmity admitted, and as he had been all along free from any of those great crimes by which, through the judgment of God, human life was often suddenly cut short, his great grief might arise partly from the love of life and the promise of long life and temporal prosperity made to the pious and godly, which would not be fulfilled to him if he were cut off in the midst of his days; partly from the obscurity of the Mosaic dispensation, where life and immortality had not been fully brought to light; and partly from his plans for the reformation of his kingdom being frustrated by his death, and from his having as yet, which was most probably the case, no son whom he could leave heir to his work and his throne. He pleaded the fulfilment of the promise. Jamieson.
—Death is dreadful in his best looks, as is the lion, though his teeth and claws be beaten out; or as a hawk to the partridge; or as a serpent’s skin, though but stuffed with straw. But why should a saint be fond of life or afraid of death, since to him it is but as his Father’s horse to carry him to his Father’s house, or as Joseph’s chariot rattling with its wheels to carry old Jacob to his son Joseph, so him to Christ?—Trapp.
2 Kings 20:6. A fixed time to live.
1. A doubtful advantage, apt to keep the shadow of the grave ever in view.
3. Should be a constant reminder of the circumstances under which the period was fixed.
4. Is best spent in earnest, religious work.
2 Kings 20:9. Human life a dial.
1. On which time flings its shadow.
2. It has its morning.
5. A Divine hand regulates the time-shadow.
2 Kings 20:11. Time and how to measure it. The dial was made to measure time. Every line has a meaning; minutes and hours are numbered, and all scientifically combined, so as to tell the time of day. The Bible is God’s dial, by which we have to measure life. Every page has a meaning—a purpose—and its lines of doctrine radiate from Christ as the centre through the whole circumference and circumflex of every-day life. To the uninitiated eye the lines on the dial have no meaning; to the mind of the unenlightened and unbelieving the Bible has no spiritual value, for “the natural man knoweth not the things that are spiritual, because they are spiritually discerned.” But the dial may help us to understand this word, and serve as a foil to throw up in relief, doctrine, precept, promise, prospect. I. The dial must be so placed as to receive the rays of the sun. Every line will then come into use. The indicator concentrates the light; the angle of incidence falls within the shadow, marking off the numbers as the earth travels round the sun, and tells the time. The Bible is a system of revealed truth. Outspread before us in type and form, it invites attention. But without the light of the Sun of Righteousness it will only be as a sealed book. The Holy Spirit must shine on its pages before we can read it so as to measure life. Christ crucified, Christ our righteousness, and Christ our life, are set forth in the Bible so as to “make us wise unto salvation.” God in Providence, and grace in the heart, are also in this Book. “The hairs of your head are all numbered,” said Jesus. A sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His Father’s knowledge and permission, and all the steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord. But the Bible is our guide. We must place it in the sunlight of His Spirit, and not let it lie on the shelf until you may write “Death,” “Judgment,” “Eternity,” on the dust of its boards. II. The dial of Ahaz was a public instrument intended for all the people of Jerusalem. Like some of the dials in Egypt at the present day, it was the only means whereby the common people could regulate their daily duty. All would not see it at once, but those who consulted it could tell others the hour by number and by voice. In that land of sunny skies the dial was of daily value and of daily use. The Bible is for all. There was a period in the history of England when it was a rare and costly book, and a time when the “King’s Book” and “Bishop’s Book,” as it was called, were used and set up on the churches, but not allowed to the laity and the common people. It was even chained up to the desk in the crypt of St. Paul’s. But after the Reformation, and the right of private judgment was affirmed, it became public property, and is now the cheapest book in the land. An Eastern princess once sent an ambassador to the English Court, to ask of our Queen what was the secret of England’s greatness. There is a picture representing a scene in which Queen Victoria is seen standing by the side of the late Prince Consort, and surrounded by ministers of State, presenting the Ambassador with an elegantly bound Bible, saying, Tell your royal mistress that this is the secret of England’s greatness. Let us cling to this Bible as our birthright. Take what you can get from the pulpit, but let those who cannot or will not come to hear, have the “Book and its story” taken to them. There must be some knowledge before there can be any faith. The Book is for all; see then that, like the Bereans, you “search the Scriptures,” for because of this they were more noble than the Christians of Thessalonica, who took for granted that which they ought to have proved.
III. Clouds would sometimes obscure the sun. and then the dial of Ahaz was in shadow. Time could not then be measured, but past experience on judging of light would keep faith steady, and work would still be done. In this cloudy land of ours the dial is often in the shade, but the sun is always in its place, and his light is precious. Clouds sometimes come between the mind and God’s Book. But the Sun of Righteousness never sets; and there is a silver lining in the darkest cloud of the Christian’s experience. Some time since Mr. Glaisher went up in his balloon to measure the atmosphere and analyze it; and just as he was looking down and admiring the glorious landscape outspread below, a cloud overshadowed him, and all was dark as night. But rising higher and higher, the huge machine got into sunshine again, and looking up, the big sun himself was seen pouring down his golden rays, making the dark cloud white and wavy, like a sea of fleecy down. He was in a new world. So with the believer. In the darkest hour he may be rising higher and higher, until the cloud is pierced, and in the smile of his Father’s love he enjoys his life again. Clouds, too, will come when we seek to solve by reason doubts and difficulties that can only be solved by faith. But the sailor is not to throw his lead line overboard because it will not fathom the depths of the Indian Ocean, nor his chart because he sees no lines of latitude and longitude on the sea. If the line is long enough to enable him to take such soundings as will show where there is danger, and the chart such as may be relied upon by experience, he needs no more to ensure safe navigation. Just so with the Christian mariner. He has faculties, but they are limited—they cannot fathom the mind of God, but they are sufficient to discover danger, while the Bible is a chart by which he can safely work his course, and in due time reach the desired haven.
IV. The sun went backward, and not forward on the dial of Ahaz, as a sign to King Hezekiah that he would get well again. This was simply a miracle. With God all things are possible, and there we must leave it. In the moral world the law of progress appears to be sometimes in abeyance, and the dial plate indicates a down-going sun. But although at present there are signs which indicate a return to the days of darkness, let us not be alarmed for God hath said, “At evening time it will be light.” Standing on the sea shore, you have seen the back-going wave running out and tearing away the landmarks of its former progress; but look again, it is getting strength as it rises, and, gathering itself like a giant, comes roaring forward to make a higher margin than it left before. So will it be with our tide of Christian progress. It is, perhaps, in the back-going wave at present, but when the Church, like Hezekiah, rises from the bed of sickness, or it may be indifference, the Sun of Righteousness will again appear—the tide of progress will flow onwards, and the world shall yet be brought to the rule of Christ.—C. W. P.
—O God, thou wilt rather alter the course of heaven and earth, than the faith of thy children shall sink for want of support.—Bp. Hall.
CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES.—
2 Kings 20:12. Merodach-baladan, king of Babylon—This is the first mention of a king of Babylon in Bible history, for hitherto Babylon had only viceroys sent from the Assyrian court. The name “Merodach” is that of the Babylonian Mars. He has been variously identified as the Mardo-Cempados of Ptol. Canon, and the Merudach Baldanes of Berosus. Hezekiah’s imprudent vanity awakened so much cupidity in these ambassadors as to lead to prolonged intrigues and ultimate conquest by this very power he tried to propitiate. And God was angry with his self-glorying pride.
2 Kings 20:19. Good is the word of the Lord—It signifies, I bow submissive to its justice, resign myself to His will. For the vision of coming ill is softened by the assurance that his own “days” should close in the enjoyment of “peace and truth.” God would suspend the execution of His judgment.
2 Kings 20:20. Made a pool and a conduit—The pond was formed between the outer and inner walls surrounding the city; and the aqueduct conveyed the water from the Upper Gihen, underground, into the city itself, where it flowed into the pool afterwards called Hezekiah’s, but now named Birket el Hamman.—W. H. J.
HOMILETICS OF 2 Kings 20:12-21
THE PERIL OF RICHES
I. That the possession of riches is a grave responsibility. Some writers suppose this Babylonian embassy visited Jerusalem before the second invasion of Sennacherib, and therefore before Hezekiah’s treasury had been drained by the heavy tribute demanded by the Assyrian. Those who accept the order of events as here recorded, argue that Hezekiah had much private treasure left, that he was enriched by the magnificent presents brought to him by other nations who came to congratulate him on his recovery, and that he gathered great spoils from the smitten Assyrian army. The riches were there, and it remained to be seen how Hezekiah would act concerning them. Wealth brings its own cares and anxieties. It puts into the hands of its owner a great power which may be weilded for good or evil. The rich man is but the steward of his possessions, and is accountable to the Absolute Proprietor of all things.
II. That riches may become a snare to the truly good. It seemed unlikely that the man who had just been snatched from the jaws of death should attach any importance to the perishable trifles of earth. And yet the glitter of gold has debauched the holiest. The rich are apt to depend more upon their riches than upon God. It is no sin to be rich; but we must be prepared to find that the snares of life are increased with the increase of wealth. Says old Chaucer—“In getting and using riches ye should always have three things in your heart: our Lord God, conscience, and a good name.” The most wakeful diligence is imperative if we would counteract the temptations of wealth. Riches will sometimes work great mischief, and then leave us helplessly struggling. “For riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle towards heaven.”
III. That the ostentatious display of riches often leads to disastrous results. The Babylonian visitors, who came professedly to congratulate Hezekiah on his recovery, to inquire into the extraordinary astronomical phenomenon of the sun dial, and to institute an alliance with Judah, carefully observed this accumulation of treasure, and the weak point of the king in his vain display. This would be reported in Babylon, and was remembered in after years to the utter ruin of Judah. This ostentation is the worst we can read about Hezekiah, and we should not be too severe in judging and condemning him alter the Christian standard of the 19th century. The simplicity with which he answered Isaiah (2 Kings 20:15) reveals an openness and frankness of disposition we cannot but admire. There are men to-day, surrounded with Christian light and influence, who give way to contemptible varieties of display. They are not unnoticed; and there are those who know how to deal with such. It is said that when the upper part of the steeple of the Church of St. Bride, Fleet Street, built by Sir Christopher Wren, was rebuilt in 1764, it was discovered that an old hawk had inhabited the two upper circles, the open arcades of which were filled with masses of birds’ bones, chiefly those of the City pigeons, upon which he had preyed. And there are wily hawks of society who are ever ready to prey with merciless and ingenious greed upon the simple and unsuspecting. The discovery of such is all the more difficult when they make the Church of Christ their hiding-place; and the clean-picked relics of their victims are all the more painful to contemplate when one finds the work of plunder has been carried on under the sacred garb of religion.
1. Great riches are liable to great changes.
2. Riches are not to be selfishly hoarded, or vainly displayed, but wisely used.
3. The best of characters may be spoiled by riches.
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES
2 Kings 20:12; 2 Kings 20:17-18. A future enemy.
1. May be introduced in the guise and with the professions of friendship.
2. Is quick to detect the vulnerable point of attack.
3. May be the instrument of accomplishing the Divine threatenings.
2 Kings 20:12-13. Hezekiah and the ambassadors, or vainglory rebuked. A man with a worn and stained garment may walk without spoiling his robe, where another, clothed in white, might not venture; a spot might not show upon a filthy garment, but the cleaner the robe the more readily is the spot discovered; and from the very fact that Hezekiah was so superlatively a holy man and a man favoured of God, his sin showed itself, and God visited it at once with chastisement. I. To bring out what Hezekiah’s offence was, it will be best to begin by describing his circumstances and state at the time of the transaction.
1. He had received very singular favours. Sennacherib had invaded the land with a host reckoned to be invincible; but when he came near Jerusalem, he was not able even so much as to cast a mound against it, or to shoot an arrow at it, for God singularly interposed, and the host of Sennacherib, smitten by the sudden breath of pestilence, or by the deadly air of the simoon, fell dead upon the plain. He had been granted a singular escape from the gates of death; where another man must have died, he was enabled within three days to go up to the house of the Lord. Added to all this in connection with his recovery, God had seen fit to do for him what He had only done for Joshua before, namely, to interrupt the orders of the heavens, and to make the sun go back ten degrees upon the dial of Ahaz as a token by which the servant’s faith might be comforted.
In addition to all this, the Lord gave Hezekiah an unusual run of prosperity. Everything prospered. Many serpents lurk among the flowers of prosperity; high places are dangerous places; it was not easy to carry a full cup with a steady hand; a loaded waggon needs a strong axle, and a well-fed steed requires a tight rein.
2. Hezekiah, at this time, had become singularly conspicuous The world’s mouth was full of Hezekiah. What a temptation is this! When many eyes are upon one, they may, unless grace prevent, act like the eyes of the fabled basilisk which fascinated their prey. A full sail needs much ballast, or the vessel will be overturned. Much grace was needed in the case before us, but this the king did not seek as he should have done.
3. Hezekiah had remarkable opportunities for usefulness. Why, Hezekiah, hadst thou been in thy right senses, and had grace kept thy wits about thee, what a sermon thou mightst have preached, with death beneath thee and heaven above thee for the text, and the eternal power and Godhead for the theme! He ought to have made the courts of princes ring with the name of Jehovah. He should have placed himself in the rear of the picture, and have filled the earth with his testimony to the glory of his God.
4. He, above all men, was under obligation to have loved his God, and to have devoted himself wholly to Him. Unto God be the glory of our life, though it be but given to us once; but oh! with what emphasis should God have all the glory of it if it be given to us twice! But it is written of him in the Chronicles, “that he rendered not again according to the benefit done unto him, for his heart was lifted up. He enjoyed the blessings, but bowed not before the Giver; he remembered the fruit, but he forgot the tree; he drank of the stream, but did not enough regard the fountain; his fields were watered with dew, but he was not sufficiently grateful to the heaven from which the dew distils. He stole the fuel from the altar of love, and burned it upon the hearth of pride.
5. It appears that at this time God left his servant, in a measure, to try him. “Howbeit, in the business of the ambassadors of the princes of Babylon, who sent unto him to enquire of the wonder that was in the land, God left him, to try him, that he might know all that was in his heart.” It was said by the old masters of metaphors that in the soundest pomegranate there are always some rotten seeds, and the whitest swan has a black bill; to which we may add, there are worms under the greenest turf, and dead men’s carcases at the bottom of the calmest seas. In the best Christian there is enough of sin to make him the worst of transgressors if God should leave him.
II. We must now consider the occurrence itself and the sin which arose out of it.
1. It is evident from the passage in Isaiah 39:0 that he was greatly delighted with their company. It is said, “Hezekiah was glad of them.” In this chapter it is said, “He hearkened unto them.” He was very pleased to see them. It is an ill sign when a Christian takes great solace in the company of the worldling, more especially when that worldling is profane. Courtesy is due from the Christian to all men, but the unholy intimacy which allows a believer to receive an unregenerate person as his bosom friend is a sin.
2. The next sin which he committed was that he evidently leaned to their alliance. Now Hezekiah was the king of a little territory, almost as insignificant as a German principality, and his true strength would have been to have leaned upon his God, and to have made no show whatever of military power. It was by God that he had been defended; why should not he still rest upon the invisible Jehovah? But no, he thinks: “If I could associate with the Babylonians, they are a rising people, it will be well for me.” It was this getting away from God, this ceasing to walk by faith, this wanting to depend in a carnal manner upon the king of Babylon, which provoked the Lord to anger.
3. The next sin was, his unholy silence concerning his God. He does not appear to have said a word to them about Jehovah. Would it have been polite? Etiquette, now-a-days, often demands of a Christian that he should not intrude his religion upon company. Out on such etiquette! Some one once complained of Mr. Rowland Hill that he was too earnest, and he told them in reply the following story. When walking at Woolten-under-Edge, he saw part of a chalk-pit fall in upon some men. “So,” said he, “I ran into the village, crying, ‘Help! help! help!’ and nobody said, ‘Dear me, how excited the old gentleman is; he is much too earnest.’ Why,” said he, “and when I see a soul perishing, am I not to cry ‘help!’ and be in earnest? Surely, souls are yet more to be cared for than bodies.”
4. Meanwhile, mark that Hezekiah sadly made up for his silence about his God by loudly boasting about himself. If he had little to say of his God, he had much to say of his spices, his armour, and his gold and silver; and I daresay he took them to see the conduit and the pool which he had made, and the various other wonders of engineering which he had carried out.
5. Surely, also, his sin lay in his putting himself on a level with these Babylonians. Suppose he had gone to see them, what would they have shown him? Why, they would have shown him their spicery, their armoury, their gold and their silver. Now, they come to see him, and he is a worshipper of the invisible God, and he glories in just the same treasures as those in which they also trusted. When a Christian man constantly acts like a worldly man, can it be possible that he is acting rightly? If they say, “Here are my treasures.” let us tell them about the city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God,” and say, “Our treasure is above.” Let us imitate the noble Roman lady, who, when her friend showed her all her trinkets, waited till her two fair boys came home from school, and then pointed to them, and said, “These are my jewels.”
III. The punishment and the pardon. We may generally find a man’s sin written in his punishment. We sow the thorns, and then God flogs us with them. Moreover, he threatened to make the same persons the means of his punishment who had been the means of his sin. “You were so pleased while you showed these Babylonians your treasures; these very ones shall take them away.” And so the things in which we confide shall be our disappointment; if we take our hearts away from God and give them to any earthly thing, that earthly thing will be a curse to us. Our sins are the mothers of our sorrows. Judgments being therefore threatened, Hezekiah and the people humbled themselves. The child that bares his back to the rod shall not be very hardly smitten. Submission more easily averts blows from God’s hand than anything else.
Yet though God did forget the sin and promise to remove the punishment from Hezekiah, yet He did not avert the consequences from another generation. So with us. You let loose the river, and it will flow on for ever. The action of to-day will affect all time; more or less remotely it will affect every coming age, for you tell on another man, and that other man on another, and even eternity itself shall hear the echo trembling along its halls of yon momentary action, which you, perhaps, without thought, committed against the living God.
IV. I have now to gather up the lessons of this narrative.
1. See, then, what is in every man’s heart. This was in Hezekiah’s heart—he was one of the best of men; the same is in your heart. You are humble to-day; you will be proud as Satan to-morrow if left by God’s grace. Perhaps it is not possible for any one of us to know our full capacity for guilt. Only let the restraining hand of providence and grace be taken away, and the wisest of us might become a very madman with the rage of sin.
3. Tremble at anything that is likely to bring out this evil of your heart. Above all, be afraid of prosperity; be thankful, but do not be over-enjoyed; walk humbly with your God. A pirate very seldom attacks a ship that is going unloaded; it is the vessel that is well stored that the buccaneer will seek to gain, and so with you: when God loads you with mercy, the devil will try to take you if he can. Riches and worldly company are the two cankers that eat out the very life of godliness.
3. We should be taught to cry out every day against vainglory. Do not you believe there may be as much pride in rags as in an alderman’s gown? Is it not just possible for a man to be proud in a dustcart, as if he rode in her Majesty’s chariot? A man may be just as proud with half a yard of ground, as Alexander with all his kingdoms, and may be just as lifted up with a few pence as Crœsus with all his treasure. Pride will grow on a dunghill, as well as in the king’s garden.
4. And then, supposing that you should have given way to it, see the sorrow which it will bring you; and if you would escape that sorrow, imitate Hezekiah, and humble yourself. When God is wrestling with man’s pride, let the man struggle as he will, he will throw him; but when the man is down, God lifts him up. None so ready to lift up a fallen fee as our God.
5. Lastly, let us cry to God never to leave us. Lord, keep me everywhere. Keep me in the valley, that I murmur not of my low estate! Keep me on the mountain, that I wax not giddy through pride at my being lifted up so high! Keep me in my youth, when my passions are strong! Keep me in my old age, when I am conceited of my wisdom, and may therefore be a greater fool than even the young. Keep me living, keep me dying, keep me labouring, keep me suffering, keep me fighting, keep me resting, keep me everywhere, for everywhere I need Thee, O my God.—C. H. Spurgeon.
2 Kings 20:13-18. A spirit of ostentation.
1. May mar a character otherwise commendable.
2. Excites the cupidity of the designing.
3. Should be rebuked by the faithful minister.
4. Leads to ruinous consequences.
2 Kings 20:13. The display was wrong as making a vain exhibition, for his own aggrandisement, of what had been offered him from reverence and respect to his God, and at the same time presenting a bait for the cupidity of these rapacious foreigners who, at no distant period, would return from the same city of Babylon and pillage his country, and transfer all the possessions he ostentatiously displayed, to Babylon, as well as his posterity, to be court attendants in that country. Besides, it was wrong in a higher point of view, as all alliances with foreign or heathen states were at variance with the fundamental principle of the theocratic kingdom of Judah. This passage affords a strong argument as to the prophecy respecting the captivity to Babylon, showing that the words must have been spoken very long before the event. The folly of the king and the reproof of the prophet must stand or fall together; the one prompts the other; the truth of the one sustains the truth of the other; the date of the one fixes the date of the other. Thus the period of Hezekiah’s display of his finances being determined to a period soon after the downfall of the Assyrians, this rebuke of the prophet, which springs out of it, is determined to the same. Then the rebuke was a prophecy; for as yet it remained for Esarhaddon, the son of Sennacherib, to annex Babylon to Assyria by conquest; it remained for the two kingdoms to continue united for two generations more; it remained for Nabopolassar, the satrap of Babylon, to revolt from Assyria and set up that kingdom for itself; and it remained for Nebuchadnezzar his son to succeed him, and, by carrying away the Jews to Babylon, accomplish the words of Isaiah. But this interval occupied a hundred years and upwards; and so far, therefore, must the spirit of prophecy have carried him forward into futurity, and that, too, contrary to all present appearances. For Babylon was as yet but a name to the people of Jerusalem; it was a far country, and was to be swallowed up in the great Assyrian Empire, and recover its independence once more, before it could be brought to act against Judah.—Jamieson.
—How easily have we seen those holy men miscarried by prosperity, against whom no miseries could prevail. He that stood out stoutly against all the Assyrian onsets, clinging the faster to his God, by how much he was harder assaulted by Sennacherib, melted now with these Babylonian favours, and runs abroad into offensive weaknesses.—Bp. Hall.
2 Kings 20:15. O Hezekiah! what means this impotent ambition? It is not long since thou tearedst off the very plates of the Temple doors, to give unto Sennacherib; and can thy treasures be suddenly so multiplied, that they can be so worthy to astonish foreign beholders? or, if thy storehouse were as rich as the earth, can thy heart be so vain as to be lifted up with these heavy metals? Didst thou not see, that heaven itself was at thy beck, whilst thou wert humbled? and shall a little earthly dross have power over thy soul? Can the flattering applause of strangers let thee loose into a proud joy, whom the late message of God’s prophet resolved into tears? O God! if thou do not keep us, as well in our sunshine as in our storm, we are sure to perish; as in all time of our tribulation, so in all time of our wealth, good Lord, deliver us!—Ibid.
—We still show our spiritual treasures to the friends from Babylon, especially when we admire our own gifts, and like to have others admire them. As soon as strangers arrive we hasten to show our gifts, and powers, and accomplishments, in order to win respect. This is just the way to lose all those things. If one collects treasures, let him store them up in heaven, where no spies will come to see them.—Lange.
2 Kings 20:19. A submissive spirit.
1. Acknowledges the righteousness of the Divine procedure.
2. Is thankful for the gracious suspension of the Divine judgment.
3. Cannot but regret the sufferings that must fall upon its descendants.
—This rod was smart, yet good Hezekiah kisses it: his heart struck him no less, than the mouth of the prophet; meekly, therefore, doth he yield to this Divine correction. “Good is the word of the Lord which thou hast spoken.” I have deserved a present payment; O God! thou deferrest it. I have deserved war and tumult; thou favourest me with peace. I have deserved to be overrun with superstition and idolatry; thou blessest me with truth. Shouldst thou continue truth unto me, though upon the most unquiet terms, the blessing were too good for me; but now thou hast promised, and wilt not reverse it, that both truth and peace shall be in my days. God’s children are neither waspish nor sullen when they are chid or beaten, but patiently hold their backs to the stripes of a displeased mercy.—Bp. Hall.
—The hopes of Hezekiah, as we have seen, were entirely confined within the limits of this life. None of the Jewish kings had a keener sense of the grandeur of his mission; but to none was it so closely identified with the interests of the present. The fifteen years of the remainder of his life seemed to be so much rescued from the desolation of impending calamities. When his end at last came, his funeral was marked with unusual honour. The whole population of the city and of the royal tribe of Judah were present. His burial forms a marked epoch in the royal interments. It may be that David’s catacomb was filled. Hezekiah is the first king who was buried outside the city of David. Apparently his tomb was on the road approaching to the ancient burial-place of his family, and from this time no prince of the royal house was interred within the walls.—Stanley.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on 2 Kings 20". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28