Posts Tagged ‘Isaiah’

In Defense of Hezekiah

Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the LORD: Behold, the days are coming, when all that is in your house, and that which your fathers have stored up till this day, shall be carried to Babylon. Nothing shall be left, says the LORD. And some of your own sons, who will come from you, whom you will father, shall be taken away, and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.” Then Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “The word of the LORD that you have spoken is good.” For he thought, “Why not, if there will be peace and security in my days?”

2 Kings 20:16–19

This always stuck me as a callous response to the prophecy that Jerusalem would be sacked and Hezekiah’s children would be taken into captivity. “Hey, that’s too bad but in the fifteen more years I’m alive there will be peace, so, cool!” But maybe that’s not what Hezekiah meant.

Chapter 20 ends with Hezekiah’s death and chapter 21 begins: Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign… Do the math. Hezekiah was given fifteen more years to live (2 Ki. 20:6) and his son who reigned in his place was only twelve years old. So when Isaiah told Hezekiah “some of your own sons, who will come from you, whom you will father, shall be taken away” he told it to a childless (or at least son-less) king. God promised not only to heal Hezekiah but also to give him children.

And it wasn’t just fifteen years later that Hezekiah’s children were taken away. Though Manasseh was only twelve when he took the throne, according to verse 6, “he burned his son as an offering.” Twelve year olds don’t have sons. Also, verse 1 says “he reigned fifty-five years in Jerusalem” and the promised destruction didn’t happen in his lifetime. Nor in the lifetime of his son Josiah, who instituted some great reforms in Judah. It wasn’t till after Josiah’s death that his son Jehoahaz was taken away by Pharaoh Neco to Egypt.

It doesn’t appear that Hezekiah had any way of knowing how long after his days God’s curse would fall but he did have an idea that it wouldn’t be too soon. God healed him and gave him fifteen more years of life. He promised that Hezekiah would have sons and they would reign also before they were carried off. He had hope so perhaps his response to Isaiah’s prophecy isn’t as callous as it appears.

What about the other thing Hezekiah did? When “Merodach-baladan the son of Baladan, king of Babylon, sent envoys with letters and a present to Hezekiah, for he heard that Hezekiah had been sick” (2 Ki. 20:12), Hezekiah welcomed him and showed him all the stuff of the king of Judah. Isaiah asked about this and then announces that curse about everything being carried off. Did Hezekiah screw up by showing Merdoach-baladan around the capital city? Maybe not. What Hezekiah did was proper court courtesy when an important person showed him a kindness. Maybe the curse that followed was not because Hezekiah showed him the stuff but maybe it was God’s way of explaining what would happen after Hezekiah was gone.

God didn’t judge Judah for having and showing riches. “Still the LORD did not turn from the burning of his great wrath, by which his anger was kindled against Judah, because of all the provocations with which Manasseh had provoked him” (2 Kings 23:26). It wasn’t Hezekiah’s fault and it wasn’t Josiah’s fault, it was Manasseh’s fault. God used a visit by a foreign royal to explain what foreigners would do to Jerusalem, not to reprimand Hezekiah.

To Jerusalem with Jesus

sheep-market-outside-herod-s-gateWe all have to go to Jerusalem with Jesus even though we know it means death. With Thomas, we all can say, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” (John 11:16). This is the king’s path through the Gospels on the way to Revelation by way of the Epistles. And as dark as that third Passover is, there is purpose in it. Well, purposes really. Of course, without the crucifixion we have no salvation. No question there. If Jesus didn’t take our sin to the cross and the grave and rise victorious over them, we’d be most to be pitied. But something else happened in Holy Week that made kingdom expansion possible.

Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover. It was about the sixth hour. He said to the Jews, “Behold your King!” They cried out, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” – John 19:14-15

While the crowd’s response to Pilate’s taunting is shocking, it wasn’t unprecedented or unanticipated by God. Israel had previously leaned on their oppressors rather than on God.

In that day the remnant of Israel and the survivors of the house of Jacob will no more lean on him who struck them, but will lean on the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, in truth. A remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God. For though your people Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will return. – Isaiah 10:20-22

When the crowd rejected Jesus as their king they didn’t claim independence, they claimed Caesar. It was the Romans who were oppressing them and it was the Romans whom they were trusting in. According to what God said through Isaiah then, this crowd wasn’t the remnant that would return. Furthermore, God’s promise to Abraham was that his offspring would be as numerous as sand and Isaiah is saying that even though the number of Israelites was like that, it was only a small portion who would actually return.

So how would God’s promise to Abraham be fulfilled if the majority of Israel has rejected Jesus? Paul asks that question himself in Romans 9:6-7, “But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring.” Okay, so the promise didn’t fail because of Israel’s failure, but how then was it fulfilled? Paul answers that question in Galatians 3:29,”If you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.”

This is why we all go to Jerusalem with Jesus even if we’re not Jews. Among the Jews a remnant was saved and the Gentiles were brought in to fill up Israel. That’s what the illustration of the olive tree having wild branches grafted in means in Romans 11. When Paul say “a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And in this way all Israel will be saved.”

In the end, we don’t get to enter earthly Jerusalem triumphantly. Jesus did and then was taken out and nailed to a tree. We’re brought in not to earthly Jerusalem but the Jerusalem that is above. (Galatians 4:26) That Jerusalem is the bride of Christ (cf Revelation 21:9 and 10). Until that Jerusalem comes down from heaven, we go with Jesus to earthly Jerusalem to die and be glorified.

Antecedents and Faith

We often talk about “trusting” God, that salvation is by “faith,” but I have often wondered how much people are really able to understand those words. I got to hear my nephew preach this morning, and he did a great job of explaining Eph 2:8-9 (although he never referenced it) using Isaiah 6. God reveals himself as a holy God. Isaiah’s appropriate response was to see the great chasm between himself as God and cry out, “Woe is me.” Isaiah is forgiven by merely receiving God’s atoning gift of the burning goals. Salvation, Dave preached, has to do with seeing God for who he is, with seeing myself for who I am, realizing that there is nothing I can do to move from being a sinner to being holy, and yet also believing that the holy God has done what only he can do in reaching out and offering forgiveness to us. “Faith” is believing that God has extended the fires of forgiveness. – Bill Mounce