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Bible Commentaries

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae
2 Kings 20

 

 

Verse 2-3

DISCOURSE: 378

HEZEKIAH’S APPEAL TO GOD

2 Kings 20:2-3. Then he turned his face to the wall, and prayed unto the Lord, saying, I beseech thee, O Lord, remember now how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight.

AS “clouds return after rain,” so do troubles follow each other frequently in rapid succession. Great was the affliction of Hezekiah at the time of Sennacherib’s invasion: and no sooner was he delivered from that, than he was attacked with a deadly malady, and had a message from the Lord that he must die [Note: There appears no just reason for transposing these two events; for they certainly might easily occur within the space of one year; and it is not right to take such liberties with Scripture, as that of transposing chapters and events, without strong internal evidence of the necessity of such a change.]. Under this new trouble he betook himself, as he had done also on the former occasion, to fervent prayer: and in this prayer he made a most solemn appeal to God, an appeal which needs to be well considered.

We will notice,

I. The occasion of it—

A message had been sent him from the Lord to set his house in order, and to prepare for speedy death.

Now this would be an awful warning to any man—

[There is in every man an instinctive dread of death; and more especially to those who regard it in its true light. Who can think of going to the tribunal of a just and holy God, to give an account of all that he has done in the body, whether good or evil, and to receive from God a sentence of everlasting happiness or misery, and not tremble at such a prospect? — — — This thought is as interesting to the prince as the peasant — — — and though many persons treat it as fit only to be regarded by the poor, or by the sick and aged, yet, when the hour of death draws nigh, all feel its importance; or, if any are hardened enough to disregard it then, their delusion ceases the very instant that death has executed on them its commission — — —]

But it was peculiarly distressing to Hezekiah—

[He had begun a great and glorious reformation, and had fondly hoped to see it completed in the land. Besides, he had many plans for the temporal prosperity of his subjects; which now he had no prospect of carrying into execution. To relinquish all these projects was painful in the extreme. It evidently was not the mere fear of death that stimulated him to pray: nor does he appear to have entertained any doubt about the safety of his own soul: it was for God, and for the Jewish nation, that he felt concerned: and doubtless, in proportion to his zeal for God, and the love he bore to man, would be his grief at the tidings of such a premature and unseasonable termination of his life: nor do we wonder that under such circumstances he should “make supplication to his God with strong crying and tears.”]

Yet, till it is explained, we shall not easily account for,

II. The appeal itself—

It does at first sight appear like the Pharisaic boast, “I thank thee, O God, that I am not as other men.” But, in truth, it was a plea, with which his prayer was enforced; a plea, like that of David, “Preserve my soul, for I am holy [Note: Psalms 86:2.].” In this appeal he humbly declared before God.

1. The use which he had hitherto made of life—

[From the first moment of his coming to the throne, he had set himself to suppress idolatry, and to reform the nation. Of this he had the testimony of his own conscience; and this gave him much comfort in his soul [Note: 2 Corinthians 1:12.], together with confidence in urging his petitions before God [Note: 1 John 3:21-22.].

But there was in this plea a reference to an express promise made to David, a promise, the accomplishment of which Hezekiah was now particularly authorized to ask, and to expect God had assured David that “if his children should walk before him in truth, there should not fail one of them to sit upon the throne of Israel [Note: 1 Kings 2:4.].” But Hezekiah had walked before God in truth, and yet was about to die without leaving any child to succeed him in his throne [Note: Manasseh was not born till three years afterwards. Compare 2 Kings 20:6 with 21:1.]. This under any circumstances would have been a great affliction; but it was peculiarly afflictive, now that Hezekiah was in the midst of all his plans for the welfare of the nation, and had no prospect of a successor who would carry them on. Hence there was a propriety in this appeal, far beyond what has been generally supposed: for if we have complied with any conditions on which a promise is suspended, we may justly urge it with God as a plea for the accomplishment of his promise.]

2. The end for which he desired a continuance of life—

[His desire was, not that he might have a protracted enjoyment of earthly things, but that he might have further opportunities of serving God. This appears from the thanksgiving which he uttered on his recovery [Note: Isaiah 38:18-19.]. And this was a legitimate ground of desiring life. St. Paul, though he “desired to depart and to be with Christ, which was far better,” yet was willing to stay a longer time here below, because it was “needful for the Church of Christ.” What better plea then could be urged than this? ‘O my God, thou hast put me into a situation wherein I can serve thee to great advantage; and thou knowest I have no desire but to advance thy glory in the world: O take me not away, till I have been enabled to render thee all the service of which thou hast made me capable!’ Such was David’s plea [Note: Psalms 30:8-9.]; and it may well be urged by all who desire to fulfil the true ends of life.]

Address,

1. Those who are in health and strength—

[Who can tell, how soon the message may be sent to you, “Set thine house in order, for thou shalt die and not live.” You may be in the prime of life, as Hezekiah was; (he was only forty years of age;) or, like him, may possess great wealth and honour; or may be engaged in pursuits of vast utility to the world; but death will not spare us on any of these accounts, if it has received its commission to cut us down. Inquire then whether, if the message were now delivered unto you, “Thou shalt die, and not live,” you are ready to give up your account with joy? Can you appeal to the heart-searching God that you have walked as in his presence, and endeavoured with sincerity of heart to approve yourselves to him? Has the doing of his will in all things been the one object of your life? Above all, inquire whether Christ has been precious to you? whether you have lived by faith on him? and whether you have truly devoted yourselves to his service? These are the things that characterize a true Christian; and unless you have the testimony of your conscience that you have made this use of life, you have indeed very abundant cause to be afraid of death. O pray to God that you may not be taken away in such an unprepared state; and lose not a moment in seeking that entire change of heart and life, without which you can never have any well-grounded confidence towards God.]

2. Those who have recovered from sickness, or have escaped any particular danger—

[Why has God spared or restored you, but that you might live henceforth to his glory? Perhaps under the apprehension of death, you determined with yourselves that you would give yourselves up to God. Now then remember the vows that are upon you. God heard your prayer, and the prayers of others for you, that it might be seen whether you would serve him or not. O beware how you abuse his patience and long-suffering towards you: beware how you make use of life only to “add sin to sin,” and to “treasure up wrath against the day of wrath.” There is a great work lying before you, and but little time to do it in. To have the text realized in you, to have it realized in all its parts — — — and to have such an evidence of it in your heart and life, as to be able to appeal to God respecting it; this is no easy matter; nor is it a work that ought to be deferred one single moment. Consider, you are still as much exposed to death as ever. Though restored, you have no promise of life for fifteen years to come, no, nor for fifteen days or hours. Improve then the present hour: “Walk not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time,” that at whatever hour the heavenly Bridegroom may arrive, you may be found ready, and be counted worthy to sit down with him at his marriage-feast in heaven.]


Verse 19

DISCOURSE: 380

THE BENEFITS ARISING FROM PEACE AND TRUTH [Note: Thanksgiving for Peace, in 1816.]

2 Kings 20:19. Is it not good, if peace and truth be in my days?

BY many it is thought that a knowledge of futurity would contribute to their happiness: but we are persuaded that it would prove only a source of misery: the good that would be foreseen would lose more than half its zest, whilst the evil that was anticipated would embitter the remainder of their days. It was as a punishment, and not as a favour, that an insight into futurity was given to King Hezekiah. He had displeased the Lord by his conduct towards the ambassadors of the king of Babylon: and God sent him word what calamities should befall both his family and nation through the instrumentality of that monarch. This judgment however was tempered with mercy; the execution of it being deferred to a generation yet unborn. Hence the judgment was submitted to with pious resignation: “Good is the word of the Lord which thou hast spoken. Is it not good, if peace and truth be in my days?”

It is not our intention to enter any further into the Jewish history than just to fix the precise import of our text. The text is applicable to all persons in every age, and particularly so to this present season. We shall therefore take occasion from it to shew,

I. What blessings God is now conferring upon us—

What we are to understand by “peace and truth” will be best seen by a reference to the preceding context—

[God had declared that the king of Babylon should invade Judea, and take all the wealth of Hezekiah for a prey, and carry captive his children, and entirely destroy the whole Jewish polity. But, inasmuch as these judgments should be deferred, Hezekiah, instead of beholding the subjugation and captivity of his children, should have “peace;” and, instead of seeing the abolition of the temple worship, should have “truth” continued to him.]

Now these are the very blessings for which we are peculiarly called to render thanks this day—

[Peace is now happily once more restored: and such a peace as places our country in a state of greater security than it has ever enjoyed since it became a nation — — —

“Truth,” also, with an undisturbed enjoyment of all religious ordinances, is now secured to us. We are no longer in danger of having the temples of our God converted into barracks for a licentious soldiery, or magazines for the implements of war. No longer have we any reason to fear lest a victorious enemy should deprive us of our religious liberty, or a yoke of superstition be imposed upon us as the only worship tolerated in the land. Blessed be God! we enjoy the Gospel in all its purity; and every man throughout the whole land is permitted to serve his God in the way that seems to him to be most agreeable to the Divine commands — — —]

Such blessings being now insured to us, let us consider,

II. In what light they should be viewed—

The continuance of them to Hezekiah was deemed by him a mercy, a great and undeniable mercy: “Is it not good, if peace and truth be in my days?” To us then is the possession of them,

1. A rich mercy—

[How rich a mercy “peace” is, we, who have never had our country the seat of war, are but ill qualified to judge. It is our happiness indeed that we cannot judge of it; since it can only be known by an experience of those calamities which war brings in its train.

Nor can we adequately conceive how much we are indebted to God for the possession of “truth.” To estimate this aright, we should behold all the degrading superstitions of heathen nations, and see what self-tormenting methods they practice for the obtaining of peace with their senseless deities of wood and stone. We should see also how the far greater part of those who call themselves Christians are blinded by ceremonies of man’s invention, and debarred the use of those sacred oracles which are “able to make them wise unto salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” Some sense, we trust, many of us have of the value of a Saviour, through whom the vilest of sinners find access to God, and obtain all the blessings of grace and glory. But we must go up to heaven and behold the felicity of the Saints made perfect; and go down to hell to behold the miseries of the damned, before we can fully appreciate that Gospel, by which we are quickened from death in trespasses and sins, and are “translated from the kingdom of Satan into the kingdom of God’s dear Son.”]

2. An undeserved mercy—

[Hezekiah felt that he might justly have been deprived of these blessings, and been made to experience in his own person all the calamities which were denounced against him in his posterity. And what was Hezekiah’s fault? It was this: that when the ambassadors came to congratulate him on his recovery from a dangerous illness, he neglected to commend to them the God of Israel, by whom their souls, and the souls of their countrymen, might be saved; and sought rather to aggrandize himself by an ostentatious display of his own wealth and power. Now we are far from wishing to extenuate his guilt: it was doubtless exceeding great: and the pride of his heart merited from God the severest chastisement [Note: 2 Chronicles 32:25-26.]. But what was his guilt compared with ours? We scarcely hear on any occasion the glory of our successes ascribed to God; nor do we find one in a thousand who relies truly and simply on God for a continuance of them: self-glorying, and confidence in an arm of flesh, are the leading features of our whole people; so that we might justly have been left to experience defeats answerable to all our victories. And how is the “truth” improved amongst us? As, on the one hand, there is not a nation under heaven where it shines with purer lustre, so neither, on the other hand, is there a nation under heaven where it is treated with greater contempt. And as to those who profess to value it, how little are its fair and beauteous lineaments visible in their hearts and lives! Well indeed might our mis-improvement of the light have long since provoked God to “take away his candlestick from us:” and it is a most unmerited mercy that “the glorious Gospel of the blessed God” is yet continued to us.]

3. A mercy that may well reconcile us to all events connected with it—

[We are not to suppose that Hezekiah was indifferent about the welfare of his posterity: it was nothing but his sense of the greatness of the mercy vouchsafed to him, that led him to acquiesce so meekly in the sentence as it was denounced against him. The prospect of the calamities that would come on his posterity was doubtless a source of bitter anguish to his mind: but it was a great matter that he had obtained a respite, and that the judgment was not inflicted instantly upon him. This favour therefore he acknowledged as a mercy, which might well compose and tranquillize his mind.

Now it is certain that the blessings which we enjoy are far from coming without alloy. They will, it is to be feared, prove in the issue a source of misery to many. The peace, which leads to the disbanding of so many thousand troops, will leave multitudes in a state unfavourable to their best interests. Many will find it difficult to return to the employment of honest industry; yea perhaps may find it difficult even to get employment: and many who in the scenes of war have been accustomed to blood and pillage may bring home with them a disposition to exercise amongst their brethren the same evil habits which they deemed allowable amongst their enemies: and thus our domestic security may be invaded, and the perpetrators of these crimes be subjected to an untimely death by the hands of the public executioner. This is an evil felt at the termination of every war: yet must it by no means indispose us to acknowledge the blessings of peace.

The very truth of God also, even the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, brings on many, through their rejection of it, an heavier condemnation. Good would it have been for many, if they had never heard the Gospel; yea good, if Jesus Christ had never come into the world to save our ruined race. It was declared at the very time that he did come, that “he was set for the fall, as well as for the rising again, of many in Israel [Note: Luke 2:34.]” and that, though he should be “a sanctuary to some, he should prove to others a stumbling stone and a rock offence [Note: Isaiah 8:14.].Thus does the Gospel itself, that greatest gift of God to mankind, “become to some a savour of life unto life, but to others a savour of death unto death [Note: 2 Corinthians 2:16.].” Still however we must not suffer these things to diminish our value for the Gospel. If some abuse their food to intemperance, we must not therefore be unthankful for our food: nor if men abuse the Gospel, must we impute it to any defect in the Gospel, but to the depravity of their own hearts, which turns the blessing into a curse. We say then, that whatever evils may, by accident, be connected with the blessings we have received, even though those evils should fall upon our own children, it becomes us to adore and magnify our God that those blessings are not withheld from us, but that we are privileged to possess them in our days.]

4. A mercy which should be gratefully and diligently improved—

[A state of peace, and a quiet enjoyment of Gospel ordinances, is extremely favourable for the attainment of vital godliness. So it proved to the Christian Church in its infant state [Note: Acts 9:31.]; and so it will be to us. Do we ask, In what way we should improve the present occasion? We answer, In the way that David and Solomon improved their circumstances, when God had favoured them with the blessings which are now conferred on us. David bethought him, What can I do for God? I will build him an house that shall be worthy of his divine Majesty [Note: 2 Samuel 7:1-2.]. Solomon also adopted precisely the same resolution under the same circumstances [Note: 1 Kings 5:4-5.]. The same holy zeal should now inflame our hearts. We are not indeed called to build for the Lord an house of wood and stone, but a house of “living stones,” that shall be “an habitation of God through the Spirit” to all eternity. O see what myriads of stones there are lying in the quarry of corrupt nature, that through your instrumentality may be formed and fashioned to build the temple of the Lord. Look at the blind obdurate sons of Abraham, and see what may be done to bring them to the knowledge of that Saviour whom they have crucified. Look at the Gentile world, all lying in darkness and the shadow of death; and see what may be done for the enlightening of their minds, and for the saving of their souls alive. To employ our time, and property, and talents according as God shall give us opportunity, in such works, will be the best return that we can make to God for the light and peace that we enjoy: and, if we exert ourselves diligently in these labours of love, verily we shall have reason to all eternity to say, “Was it not good, that peace and truth were in our days?”]

 


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Bibliography Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on 2 Kings 20:4". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/shh/2-kings-20.html. 1832.

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Saturday, December 7th, 2019
the First Week of Advent
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