How different is the story of Hezekiah, the son of Ahaz. He is described as one who “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, just as his father David had done” (2 Chronicles 29:2). Not only this, but he inspired the people to return to God and they “smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles. They destroyed the high places and the altars throughout Judah and Benjamin and in Ephraim and Manasseh” (31:1).
What was it that made this son, Hezekiah, respond so differently from his father, Ahaz? One was “unlike his father David” and the other was “just as his father David.” If David was the ideal king of Israel, we know which king was on the right track. What was it in Ahaz that made Hezekiah live for the LORD God and not the gods of Assyria?
Was it that only four years into Hezekiah’s twenty-nine year reign Shalmaneser king of Assyria marched against Samaria, the capital of the adjoining northern kingdom of Israel, and took it and its people after three painful years of siege? Did Hezekiah see the fruitlessness of seeking help from Assyria in his northern neighbors and distant cousins? Did he encounter the endless appetite of the Assyrian kings when Sennacherib attacked his fortified cities?
Whatever it was, Hezekiah, the king of a small country with a small army, took a stand against Assyria and its king, Sennacherib, rooted in his faith in the LORD God. In response to the continued onslaught of Assyria, Hezekiah chose to turn to the LORD God.
First, Hezekiah turns to God by seeking advice from a godly person, the prophet Isaiah. Isaiah offers a message of consolation and promised deliverance for Hezekiah and Judah. Hezekiah is instructed not to fear Assyria because God will deliver him and his people from the threats of this greater nation and army.
But Sennacherib continues his intimidation tactics, sending a threatening letter to Hezekiah, even as Sennacherib’s army is laying siege to another place: “Who of all the gods of these nations that my predecessors destroyed has been able to save his people from me? How then can your god deliver you from my hand?” (32:14). Along with Isaiah the prophet, Hezekiah turns directly to God in prayer for help and deliverance (32:20).
And so God does deliver. We are told that “the Lord sent an angel, who annihilated all the fighting men and the commanders and officers in the camp of the Assyrian king. So he withdrew to his own land in disgrace” (32:21a). After returning to Nineveh, the sons of Sennacherib kill him while he is worshipping in the temple of his god (32:21b). So much for the protection of these supposed gods other than the Lord.
Comparing Ahaz and Hezekiah we have two very different kings and two very different outcomes. Ahaz turns to Assyria and accommodates to their ways and religion. Hezekiah turns to the Temple of God and reaches out to the Lord God.
Are we like Hezekiah? When things are easy do we turn to the LORD God? When things are difficult and there is a risk to doing so, do we still take a stand for God in our lives? Do we seek help from Him or from other sources?
The LORD delights in those who fear Him,
who put their hope in His unfailing love.” (Psalm 147:11)