Lesson 13 | Sabbath, 28 March 2020
“Those with whom we associate day by day need our help, our guidance. They may be in such a condition of mind that a word spoken in season will be as a nail in a sure place. Tomorrow some of these souls may be where we can never reach them again. What is our influence over these fellow travelers?
“Every day of life is freighted with responsibilities which we must bear. Every day, our words and acts are making impressions upon those with whom we associate. How great the need that we set a watch upon our lips and guard carefully our steps! One reckless movement, one imprudent step, and the surging waves of some strong temptation may sweep a soul into the downward path. We cannot gather up the thoughts we have planted in human minds. If they have been evil, we may have set in motion a train of circumstances, a tide of evil, which we are powerless to stay.” –Prophets and Kings, p. 348.
- In about B.C. 721, who became the ruler in Judah? What do the Holy Scriptures report about his reign?
2 Kings 18:1, 3-5, 7 Now it came to pass in the third year of Hoshea son of Elah king of Israel, that Hezekiah the son of Ahaz king of Judah began to reign…. 3And he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that David his father did. 4He removed the high places, and brake the images, and cut down the groves, and brake in pieces the brazen serpent that Moses had made: for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it: and he called it Nehushtan.
5He trusted in the Lord God of Israel; so that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor any that were before him…. 7And the Lord was with him; and he prospered whithersoever he went forth: and he rebelled against the king of Assyria, and served him not.
“Hezekiah came to the throne determined to do all in his power to save Judah from the fate that was overtaking the northern kingdom. The messages of the prophets offered no encouragement to halfway measures. Only by most decided reformation could the threatened judgments be averted.
“In the crisis, Hezekiah proved to be a man of opportunity. No sooner had he ascended the throne than he began to plan and to execute. He first turned his attention to the restoration of the temple services, so long neglected; and in this work he earnestly solicited the cooperation of a band of priests and Levites who had remained true to their sacred calling. Confident of their loyal support, he spoke with them freely concerning his desire to institute immediate and far-reaching reforms. ‘Our fathers have trespassed,’ he confessed, ‘and done that which was evil in the eyes of the Lord our God, and have forsaken Him, and have turned away their faces from the habitation of the Lord.’ ‘Now it is in mine heart to make a covenant with the Lord God of Israel, that His fierce wrath may turn away from us.’ 2 Chronicles 29:6, 10.” –Prophets and Kings, pp. 331, 332.
The king’s illness and fervent prayer
- At the height of his activity for the benefit of Judah, what happened to Hezekiah? With what fervent prayer did he plead with the Lord?
Isaiah 38:1-3 In those days was Hezekiah sick unto death. And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came unto him, and said unto him, Thus saith the Lord, Set thine house in order: for thou shalt die, and not live. 2Then Hezekiah turned his face toward the wall, and prayed unto the Lord, 3And said, Remember now, O Lord, I beseech thee, how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight. And Hezekiah wept sore.
“In the midst of his prosperous reign King Hezekiah was suddenly stricken with a fatal malady. ‘Sick unto death,’ his case was beyond the power of man to help. And the last vestige of hope seemed removed when the prophet Isaiah appeared before him with the message, ‘Thus saith the Lord, Set thine house in order: for thou shalt die, and not live.’ Isaiah 38:1.
“The outlook seemed utterly dark; yet the king could still pray to the One who had hitherto been his ‘refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.’ Psalm 46:1.” –Prophets and Kings, p. 340.
- How did the Lord answer his plea through the prophet Isaiah?
Isaiah 38:4, 5 Then came the word of the Lord to Isaiah, saying, 5Go, and say to Hezekiah, Thus saith the Lord, the God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will add unto thy days fifteen years.
“He whose ‘compassions fail not,’ heard the prayer of His servant. Lamentations 3:22. ‘It came to pass, afore Isaiah was gone out into the middle court, that the word of the Lord came to him, saying, Turn again, and tell Hezekiah the captain of My people, Thus saith the Lord, the God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will heal thee: on the third day thou shalt go up unto the house of the Lord. And I will add unto thy days fifteen years; and I will deliver thee and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria; and I will defend this city for Mine own sake, and for My servant David’s sake.’ 2 Kings 20:4-6.
“Gladly the prophet returned with the words of assurance and hope. Directing that a lump of figs be laid upon the diseased part, Isaiah delivered to the king the message of God’s mercy and protecting care.” –Prophets and Kings, pp. 341, 342.
- As a result of the king’s miraculous healing and the sign given to him by the Lord, who paid Hezekiah a visit? What did he show these foreign visitors?
Isaiah 39:1, 2 At that time Merodachbaladan, the son of Baladan, king of Babylon, sent letters and a present to Hezekiah: for he had heard that he had been sick, and was recovered. 2And Hezekiah was glad of them, and showed them the house of his precious things, the silver, and the gold, and the spices, and the precious ointment, and all the house of his armour, and all that was found in his treasures: there was nothing in his house, nor in all his dominion, that Hezekiah showed them not.
“Their [the Babylonians’] king, Merodachbaladan,… sent ambassadors to Hezekiah to congratulate him on his recovery and to learn, if possible, more of the God who was able to perform so great a wonder.
“The visit of these messengers from the ruler of a far-away land gave Hezekiah an opportunity to extol the living God. How easy it would have been for him to tell them of God, the upholder of all created things, through whose favor his own life had been spared when all other hope had fled! What momentous transformations might have taken place had these seekers after truth from the plains of Chaldea been led to acknowledge the supreme sovereignty of the living God!
“But pride and vanity took possession of Hezekiah’s heart, and in self-exaltation he laid open to covetous eyes the treasures with which God had enriched His people.” –Prophets and Kings, pp. 344, 345.
- After the foreigners left, what did the prophet Isaiah come and ask the king? What do the Scriptures say about the reason for and the results of this experience?
Isaiah 39:3, 4 Then came Isaiah the prophet unto king Hezekiah, and said unto him, What said these men? and from whence came they unto thee? And Hezekiah said, They are come from a far country unto me, even from Babylon. 4Then said he, What have they seen in thine house? And Hezekiah answered, All that is in mine house have they seen: there is nothing among my treasures that I have not showed them.
2 Chronicles 32:31, 25 Howbeit in the business of the ambassadors of the princes of Babylon, who sent unto him to inquire of the wonder that was done in the land, God left him, to try him, that he might know all that was in his heart…. 25But Hezekiah rendered not again according to the benefit done unto him; for his heart was lifted up: therefore there was wrath upon him, and upon Judah and Jerusalem.
“The visit of the ambassadors to Hezekiah was a test of his gratitude and devotion…. Had Hezekiah improved the opportunity given him to bear witness to the power, the goodness, the compassion, of the God of Israel, the report of the ambassadors would have been as light piercing darkness. But he magnified him- self above the Lord of hosts. He ‘rendered not again according to the benefit done unto him; for his heart was lifted up.’ Verse 25.” –Prophets and Kings, p. 346.
Seeds of disaster for the future
- What was prophesied would happen as a result of the avarice aroused in the hearts and minds of the pagan visitors because of Hezekiah’s failure to glorify God?
Isaiah 39:5-7 Then said Isaiah to Hezekiah, Hear the word of the Lord of hosts: 6Be– hold, the days come, that all that is in thine house, and that which thy fathers have laid up in store until this day, shall be carried to Babylon: nothing shall be left, saith the Lord. 7And of thy sons that shall issue from thee, which thou shalt beget, shall they take away; and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.
“How disastrous the results which were to follow! To Isaiah it was revealed that the returning ambassadors were carrying with them a report of the riches they had seen, and that the king of Babylon and his counselors would plan to enrich their own country with the treasures of Jerusalem. Hezekiah had grievously sinned; ‘therefore there was wrath upon him, and upon Judah and Jerusalem.’ Verse 25.” –Prophets and Kings, p. 346.
- How did Hezekiah receive this message? Even though God delayed the fulfillment of the prophecy, what happened to Judah? What did the people have to learn through severe trial, and how does this experience apply to God’s church now?
Isaiah 39:8 Then said Hezekiah to Isaiah, Good is the word of the Lord which thou hast spoken. He said moreover, For there shall be peace and truth in my days.
2 Chronicles 32:26 Notwithstanding Hezekiah humbled himself for the pride of his heart, both he and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the wrath of the Lord came not upon them in the days of Hezekiah.
2 Kings 24:11, 13; 25:13-15 And Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came against the city, and his servants did besiege it…. 13And he carried out thence all the treasures of the house of the Lord, and the treasures of the king’s house, and cut in pieces all the vessels of gold which Solomon king of Israel had made in the temple of the Lord, as the Lord had said…. 25:13And the pillars of brass that were in the house of the Lord, and the bases, and the brazen sea that was in the house of the Lord, did the Chaldees break in pieces, and carried the brass of them to Babylon. 14And the pots, and the shovels, and the snuffers, and the spoons, and all the vessels of brass wherewith they ministered, took they away. 15And the firepans, and the bowls, and such things as were of gold, in gold, and of silver, in silver, the captain of the guard took away.
“Filled with remorse, ‘Hezekiah humbled himself for the pride of his heart, both he and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the wrath of the Lord came not upon them in the days of Hezekiah.’ 2 Chronicles 32:26. But the evil seed had been sown and in time was to spring up and yield a harvest of desolation and woe. During his remaining years the king of Judah was to have much prosperity because of his steadfast purpose to redeem the past and to bring honor to the name of the God whom he served; yet his faith was to be severely tried, and he was to learn that only by putting his trust fully in Jehovah could he hope to triumph over the powers of darkness that were plotting his ruin and the utter destruction of his people.” –Prophets and Kings, p. 347.
For additional study
“The story of Hezekiah’s failure to prove true to his trust at the time of the visit of the ambassadors is fraught with an important lesson for all. Far more than we do, we need to speak of the precious chapters in our experience, of the mercy and loving-kindness of God, of the matchless depths of the Saviour’s love. When mind and heart are filled with the love of God, it will not be difficult to impart that which enters into the spiritual life. Great thoughts, noble aspirations, clear perceptions of truth, unselfish purposes, yearnings for piety and holiness, will find expression in words that reveal the character of the heart treasure….
“On the other hand, if by our example we aid others in the development of good principles, we give them power to do good. In their turn they exert the same beneficial influence over others. Thus hundreds and thousands are helped by our unconscious influence. The true follower of Christ strengthens the good purposes of all with whom he comes in contact. Before an unbelieving, sin-loving world he reveals the power of God’s grace and the perfection of His character.” –Prophets and Kings, pp. 347, 348.