Each year, my 50 year journey through scripture seems more personally perilous, due to its endless relevance.
Allow me to explain. The text certainly does not change, though I have resourced various versions over the years, now for over 15 years, reading the NIV version. I am now in II Kings.
This mornings peril comes as the Spirit points out a seemingly new revelation within a quite familiar texts, one well baked into my theology.
Given a lifetime of evangelical and literal orientation to scripture, I am already feeling heretic-like, as my mind prepares its thoughts.
This morning, decades of admiration for Hezekiah seemed tainted, now that my aging frame is beginning to give focus to legacy, and in particular, the impact of my life on future offspring.
In my past, Hezekiah had always provided good altar call material. If you are of an other persuasion than evangelical, that was a time at the end of the sermon, when folk were called to repentance and a time for confession, even empowerment by the Spirit. Often times, at least among Pentecostals, healing lines would form, with testimonies at times truly impactful!
More often however, it became a strategic tool to bring emotional alignment with the pastor and deacons, such that the church congregation might be adequately resourced and its programs flourish.
Back to Hezekiah, and his moment of anguish as he was being told by the prophet Isaiah of impending death. This caused him to cry out to God! In my day, that as well was a convenient entrée to a solid evangelical altar call. There a firebrand preacher would have focused on the story of him showing the enemy everything in his possession. This was followed by an Isaiah-like rebuke for our sinful recklessness. As well as a subtle congregational rebuke could even reach the level of Deacon, if there were mavericks on the church board!
You may now understand the early reference to personal peril as I candidly unpack my thoughts this a.m, given those evangelicals who may be reading this blog.
The real relevance for my life came when I read verse 20:16-19, which revealed the true heart of Hezekiah, though to my knowledge, seldom pointed out, at least often enough for me to have internalized its significance:
16Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, "Hear the word of the LORD: 17The time will surely come when everything in your palace, and all that your predecessors have stored up until this day, will be carried off to Babylon. Nothing will be left, says the LORD. 18And some of your descendants, your own flesh and blood who will be born to you, will be taken away, and they will become eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon." 19"The word of the LORD you have spoken is good," Hezekiah replied. For he thought, "Will there not be peace and security in my lifetime?"
Hezekiah's concern was more for his own skin than the nation of Judah, though chapters before, he had torn his clothing and worn sackcloth; symbolic of true spiritual repentance in that day. This might even have national relevance for America?
Certainly the earlier letter from Sennacherib, laid before the Lord in prayer per II Kings 19:20-35, was a moment that seemed effective , somewhat of a spiritual high fo Hezekiah. One that for me had long masked the reality of his inner self.
Until this a.m., I was never aware of the deep and horrible consequence contained within II Kings 21:1-6:
"Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem fifty-five years. His mother's name was Hephzibah. 2He did evil in the eyes of the LORD, following the detestable practices of the nations the LORD had driven out before the Israelites. 3He rebuilt the high places his father Hezekiah had destroyed; he also erected altars to Baal and made an Asherah pole, as Ahab king of Israel had done. He bowed down to all the starry hosts and worshiped them. 4He built altars in the temple of the LORD, of which the LORD had said, "In Jerusalem I will put my Name." 5In the two courts of the temple of the LORD, he built altars to all the starry hosts. 6He sacrificed his own son in the fire, practiced divination, sought omens, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the eyes of the LORD, arousing his anger."
Hezekiah's spiritual condition, his selfish concern for peace and prosperity in his lifetime, regardless of impact on future generations is herein manifested.
Manasseh sacrificed his very son, Hezekiah's grandson "in the fire!" You might reread vs. 20:18, as Hezekiah had earlier heard Isaiah prophesy these words:
18 And some of your descendants, your own flesh and blood who will be born to you, will be taken away, and they will become eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.”
This now causes me even deeprr concern, and a desire to reassess my own lifetime of engagement with so many. Yes, I too was likely absent or distracted at times from my family during self percieved "critical moments of urgency and mission!"
More probable, a deeply selfish concern for my own sense of gratification and my passionate sense of calling, becoming selfish when inconvenienced, even by one's family.
I pray the Lord have mercy on the lives of those who follow in my footsteps.