Print This Page Print This Page


Posted by Pastor Greg Allen on November 5, 2017 under 2017 |

Preached Sunday, November 5, 2017; Hezekiah—Ruler in The Revival; 2 Chronicles 28

Theme: Revival can come at what seems like the most unlikely of times.

(Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are taken from The Holy Bible, New King James Version; copyright 1982, Thomas Nelson, Inc.)

A few years ago, I was privileged to visit Jerusalem. And as we walked along within the area of the old city, we were shown the remains of an ancient wall. It didn’t look like much to see—just a stack of very tightly compacted rocks that dated back nearly 2,700 years ago. But when our guide told us that this was a wall built by King Hezekiah of Judah, I became very excited! It wasn’t so much because of the wall. Rather, it was because of the fact that it was built by one of my favorite heroes of the Old Testament.

Maybe you’ve never thought much about King Hezekiah. It may be that you’ve never even heard of him. But he was one of the most godly kings of the Old Testament kingdom of Judah, and the man by whom God brought about one of the greatest spiritual awakenings in Old Testament history.

If you were to turn in your Bible to the Old Testament—to 2 Chronicles 30:26—you would read a comment that was made about the great ‘revival’ that occurred during his reign. We’re told that, when people saw what God was doing in Hezekiah’s day, “there was great joy in Jerusalem, for since the time of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel, there had been nothing like this in Jerusalem.” It was a remarkable time of spiritual awakening and restoration to the God of Israel—the greatest awakening in the nation of Israel in about three-hundred years time!

What’s more, we’re told that Hezekiah himself was a man of great faithfulness to God. In 2 Chronicles 31:20-21 he received a remarkable endorsement; that

he did what was good and right and true before the Lord his God. And in every work that he began in the service of the house of God, in the law and in the commandment, to seek his God, he did it with all his heart. So he prospered (2 Chronicles 30:20-21).

You can see why I’m so excited about the story of this man Hezekiah. And I’m inviting that, for the next several weeks together, we explore his story as it’s told to us in 2 Chronicles 29-32. It’s a story of the great spiritual awakening that God brought about in Hezekiah’s people while under his rule. And I believe that, through it, we can learn some great lessons about the possibility of revival in our time—and about our prayers for a similar spiritual ‘awakening’.

* * * * * * * * * *

Now; if you would look at 2 Chronicles 28:27, you would find the verse where Hezekiah is first introduced to us. We’re told there that the reign of his royal father King Ahaz had come to an end; and we’re introduced to Hezekiah with these words: “Then Hezekiah his son reigned in his place.”

That word “then” is of tremendous significance. It obviously refers to the next in a sequence of historic events; that is, after Ahaz’s reign came to an end, “then” his son Hezekiah’s reign began. But if you were to look carefully at the events of Ahaz’s reign, and see that—in them—we’re being given a picture of the conditions of the times into which the great reformer Hezekiah came, then that word “then” becomes a truly remarkable and encouraging one.

As we look at the times of Hezekiah’s father, we see that they were among the worst times imaginable for the spiritual condition of God’s chosen people. Charles Dickens might have put it this way, “They were the worst of times—period!” The days were spiritually dark to an astonishing degree; and it would be very hard to imagine them becoming any darker. They were not the kind of times from which anyone would have expected a great spiritual revival. In fact, they would have been the kind of days that would have caused you to think that the nation of Israel was over and done with—that God would have had nothing further to do with the people of Israel—that joyous days of spiritual refreshing and God’s blessing would never come to them again.

And there’s a great lesson in that for you and me. It’s a lesson that we, as believers, need very much to bring to bear upon our own times. We, as God’s people—followers of the Lord Jesus Christ—long for revival. We pray for yet another great awakening in our day. But if you were to look at the times in which we’re living, you certainly wouldn’t expect such an awakening to come. It seems unlikely, humanly speaking. In fact, you would look at our times and expect that the days of God’s blessing, and His gracious gift of spiritual refreshing, are long over—that even though we have experienced the blessings of God upon us in the past, those days are gone; and that there’s no hope for them ever returning. Some of us, I fear, have almost completely given up in our prayers for revival in our time—and are just hoping to make it through the brief years to come, and then go to be with the Lord, and never have to see the disastrous days that are coming. We look at the world around us, and we can’t see how revival could possibly happen.

And yet, as the story of Hezekiah teaches us—and particularly, the story of the times in which he “then” came—we can see that revival can come at what seems like the most unlikely of times; yes, even ‘the worst of times’. The nature of the times is never a decisive issue in the matter of revival; because our sovereign God is never dependent upon the conditions of the times to bring about his transforming grace of an awakening in response to the prayers of His people.

* * * * * * * * * *

The times of King Ahaz—Hezekiah’s father—were very turbulent times; even without Ahaz being in them. There was unrest among the nations all around. Ahaz was king over the southern kingdom of Judah; after the nation of Israel had been broken in two and had been divided. To the north were the ten tribes of the kingdom of Israel. Those ten tribes had—long before—become unfaithful to God; and every one of the kings that had reigned over them had been evil and ungodly men. And it was twelve years into Ahaz’ reign that one of the most significant events in Old Testament history would occur. That northern kingdom would be conquered by the dreaded and cruel Assyrians in the year 722 B.C.—and they would all be deported by the Assyrians into other lands, never to return. As the story is told to us in Chapter 28, that conquest and deportation hadn’t happened yet; but it was going to come soon.

Ahaz himself had grown up with a godly heritage. His father was King Jotham. If you look back a bit to 2 Chronicles 27:6, you’ll see that we’re told that “Jotham became mighty, because he prepared his ways before the LORD his God”. But sadly, his son Ahaz had not learned the lessons of faithfulness he should have learned from his father. Ahaz—unlike his father—goes down in history as one of the most ungodly kings in the story of the kings of Judah; teaching us that a godly father does not guarantee a godly son, just as Hezekiah’s story teaches us that an ungodly father does not guarantee an ungodly son. Each one of us, ultimately, is responsible before God for our own character; and Ahaz’ character was decidedly ungodly!

Chapter 28 goes on to tell us—in dreadful detail—the nature of the times under Ahaz. And I suggest that you can see some things in them that are similarity to our own times. First, we see that the times of Ahaz were characterized by deplorable levels of idolatry. Verse 1-2 tells us;

Ahaz was twenty years old when he became king, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem; and he did not do what was right in the sight of the Lord, as his father David had done. For he walked in the ways of the kings of Israel, and made molded images for the Baals (2 Chronicles 28:1-2).

The godly ‘standard’ for the kings of Judah—the ‘plumb-line’ by which they were measured—was always the life and character of their great and godly ancestor King David. But when it came to their ungodly character, they were measured by the unfaithfulness of the northern people of Israel—and by their most notorious king, King Jeroboam. Jeroboam first introduced idolatry to the people of the northern kingdom of Israel; and here, we see that Ahaz ‘walked’ in the idolatrous ways of the kings of Israel. As an expression of his unfaithfulness, he made ‘molded images’ for the worship of the false gods of the Canaanite peoples that formerly dwelt in the land—the Baals; whose worship, by the way, involved shocking acts of immorality.

And more, we’re told that Ahaz took his idolatry to murderous and unspeakably cruel levels. It is horrible to speak of; but verse 3 tells us;

He burned incense in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, and burned his children in the fire, according to the abominations of the nations whom the Lord had cast out before the children of Israel (v. 3).

In other words, he offered his own children up as human sacrifices to the horrible false god of the pagan peoples; most likely to Moloch. What a dreadful thing to do!—and especially in the land that God gave to the people of Israel! And it gets worse still. We’re told in verse 4;

And he sacrificed and burned incense on the high places, on the hills, and under every green tree (v. 4).

Do you ever get frustrated, dear brothers and sisters, by the sights and sounds and smells of ungodliness all around you in the centers of culture today? Do you ever feel frustrated by the celebration of sin and wickedness—it seems—on every corner and around every turn? Do you ever feel as if you can’t seem to get away from it all; because it’s always there, forcing itself upon you? That’s what Ahaz made things like in the land that God gave to His people—in rejection of the ways of his godly father, and in rebellion against the Lord. What dismal times they were!

Such kings drag their people down into immorality with them. And such times provoke God to anger and judgment. Eventually, His judgment came. We’re told next of how those times were characterized by great losses suffered because of unfaithfulness. Verses 5-6 tell us;

Therefore the Lord his God delivered him into the hand of the king of Syria. They defeated him, and carried away a great multitude of them as captives, and brought them to Damascus. Then he was also delivered into the hand of the king of Israel, who defeated him with a great slaughter. For Pekah the son of Remaliah killed one hundred and twenty thousand in Judah in one day, all valiant men, because they had forsaken the Lord God of their fathers (vv. 5-6).

Do you notice that verse 5 says that ‘the Lord his God’ allowed him to fall into the hands of the surrounding enemy nations? “His” God! Ahaz may have been thinking that he was simply turning to other gods—as if he had a choice of which gods to turn to; but from God’s point of view, it was unfaithfulness and rebellion—for He alone was Ahaz’ God. And as a result, God disciplined Ahaz. The Syrians to the north joined in together with the northern tribes of Israel, and attacked Judah, and slew 120,000 of Ahaz’ soldiers in just one day! What a devastating blow this would have been to Ahaz! And it was all because he had lead his people in unfaithfulness away from the one true God. We’re told in verse 7 that just one mighty warrior from the northern tribe of Ephraim killed the king’s ‘son’, the chief officer over king’s household, and the king’s second in command!

And the losses were even greater still. Verse 8 tells us;

And the children of Israel carried away captive of their brethren two hundred thousand women, sons, and daughters; and they also took away much spoil from them, and brought the spoil to Samaria (v. 8).

In addition to the loss of 120,000 soldiers then, Ahaz also suffered the captivity and deportation of 200,000 of his citizens. That’s a loss of 320,000 people! To put it into perspective, just think of how the population of the greater Portland area is around 650,000. That means that Ahaz suffered the loss of the rough equivalent of half the population of Portland! And this devastating blow came because of his hard-hearted rebellion and sin. Could you imagine a great spiritual awakening springing ‘naturally’ from such times as those under such a king? Could you imagine such times being the ‘greenhouse’ from which ‘revival’ would grow?

Now; there’s a fascinating story that is told to us at this point. It’s found in verses 9-15. As the captives were being taken away by the Syrians and the northern kingdom to Damascus, God raised up a very brave prophet named Obed. We’re told in verses 9-11 that he actually went before the armies in their victory march to Syria and confronted them and said;

Look, because the Lord God of your fathers was angry with Judah, He has delivered them into your hand; but you have killed them in a rage that reaches up to heaven. And now you propose to force the children of Judah and Jerusalem to be your male and female slaves; but are you not also guilty before the Lord your God? Now hear me, therefore, and return the captives, whom you have taken captive from your brethren, for the fierce wrath of the Lord is upon you” (vv. 9-11).

Ordinarily, you would expect that someone who would do something like that—brave though it may be—would then be thrown in with the rest of the captives. But no! An amazing miracle happened. The key men of the northern kingdom listened to the prophet Obed and repented before God. They told the soldiers that they may not bring the captives there because it would be a sinful thing to do to their brethren, and that it would add to God’s anger upon them. Instead, they clothed the captives, fed them, gave them medical treatment, put their weakest and frailest people on donkeys, and took them back to their homeland and went back to Syria.

Have you ever heard of such a thing? It was an amazing miracle of God’s grace! God clearly proved that He was on the throne! And Ahaz should have learned from it. He should have seen that even the northern kingdom was behaving in a more reverent and obedient manner toward God than he was! But no. From this, we see yet another characteristic of the times; that there was a refusal to pay attention to God’s acts of mercy. God was giving the king of Judah a second chance as it were—letting him see for himself that God is a merciful God and is ready to forgive and restore and protect all who trust Him. He was letting Ahaz see that He is so powerful that He is able to even turn the hearts of Judah’s enemies around.

But Ahaz still wouldn’t listen. Who would expect revival to ever come from such times as that?

And it gets worse still. Even after seeing how powerful and gracious God is, Ahaz would not turn to Him. He behaved as if God wasn’t even there; and followed after completely ‘secular’ paths in trying to solve his problems. He further degraded the times with a habitual turning to resources that cannot help. Verses 16-20 tell us;

At the same time King Ahaz sent to the kings of Assyria to help him. For again the Edomites had come, attacked Judah, and carried away captives. The Philistines also had invaded the cities of the lowland and of the South of Judah, and had taken Beth Shemesh, Aijalon, Gederoth, Sochoh with its villages, Timnah with its villages, and Gimzo with its villages; and they dwelt there. For the Lord brought Judah low because of Ahaz king of Israel, for he had encouraged moral decline in Judah and had been continually unfaithful to the Lord. Also Tiglath-Pileser king of Assyria came to him and distressed him, and did not assist him (vv. 16-21).

Look at verse 21; and see how desperate Ahaz became in efforts to resort to ungodly sources for help;

For Ahaz took part of the treasures from the house of the Lord, from the house of the king, and from the leaders, and he gave it to the king of Assyria; but he did not help him (v. 21).

He actually raided the treasury of the holy temple of God in order to pay-off the wicked, ungodly, paganistic, cruel Assyrian king. But even that didn’t work; because the Assyrian king simply took the money—and didn’t help him at all.

Well; you’d think that the times had gotten as bad as they possibly could. But oh no! Ahaz—if you can believe it—found a way to make them even worse still. Verses 22-23 tell us;

Now in the time of his distress King Ahaz became increasingly unfaithful to the Lord. This is that King Ahaz. For he sacrificed to the gods of Damascus which had defeated him, saying, “Because the gods of the kings of Syria help them, I will sacrifice to them that they may help me.” But they were the ruin of him and of all Israel (vv. 22-23).

2 Kings 16 tells us the shocking story of how he went to Damascus, saw the altar to the pagan gods that was there, sent the design of it to his high priest in Jerusalem, ordered it to be made, moved the true altar of God in the temple out of the way for it, and began to offer his offerings on this phony altar to false gods instead. And this led to his most horrible act of all in contaminating the culture of the times—a bold ‘shutting of the doors’ to the worship of God.

Ahaz thought that he had established a new religion in Jerusalem. Verses 23-24 tell us;

So Ahaz gathered the articles of the house of God, cut in pieces the articles of the house of God, shut up the doors of the house of the Lord, and made for himself altars in every corner of Jerusalem. And in every single city of Judah he made high places to burn incense to other gods, and provoked to anger the Lord God of his fathers (vv. 24-25).

* * * * * * * * * *

It is with great relief that we come to the end of Ahaz’ story. Verses 26-27 tell us;

Now the rest of his acts and all his ways, from first to last, indeed they are written in the book of the kings of Judah and Israel. So Ahaz rested with his fathers, and they buried him in the city, in Jerusalem; but they did not bring him into the tombs of the kings of Israel (vv. 26-27a).

They had to bury him because, after all, he was a king. But they didn’t dare bury him in a place of honor with other kings. I say this, I hope, with due reverence; but isn’t it a blessing that God doesn’t permit some kings to live forever?

And again I ask; would you have ever expected times of spiritual refreshing and awakening to come from such times as those? Certainly not! But that’s when we find the words at the end of verse 27—and that particularly wonderful word “then”;

Then Hezekiah his son reigned in his place (v. 27b).

Just to get a taste of what lies ahead, look on to the first few verses of Chapter 29;

Hezekiah became king when he was twenty-five years old, and he reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Abijah the daughter of Zechariah. And he did what was right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his father David had done.

In the first year of his reign, in the first month, he opened the doors of the house of the Lord and repaired them. Then he brought in the priests and the Levites, and gathered them in the East Square, and said to them: “Hear me, Levites! Now sanctify yourselves, sanctify the house of the Lord God of your fathers, and carry out the rubbish from the holy place. For our fathers have trespassed and done evil in the eyes of the Lord our God; they have forsaken Him, have turned their faces away from the dwelling place of the Lord, and turned their backs on Him. They have also shut up the doors of the vestibule, put out the lamps, and have not burned incense or offered burnt offerings in the holy place to the God of Israel. Therefore the wrath of the Lord fell upon Judah and Jerusalem, and He has given them up to trouble, to desolation, and to jeering, as you see with your eyes. For indeed, because of this our fathers have fallen by the sword; and our sons, our daughters, and our wives are in captivity” (29:1-9).

And what follows from there—for the next four chapters—is the story of one of the greatest spiritual revivals in recorded history. And it tells us in 29:30 that Hezekiah and the people all rejoiced in God’s blessing, “since the events took place so suddenly”.

* * * * * * * * * *

The point, dear brothers and sisters, is this: We should never look at the times and be discouraged in our prayers—thinking that the times are just far too wicked and sinful for revival.

I have done a personal study of the great revivals that occurred in our own nation’s history—massive culture-changing, generation-transforming awakenings and returns to the gospel of Jesus Christ. And the amazing thing I have discovered is that they have almost all come at times that everyone considered spiritually dismal and dark. Some of our greatest times of revival came when it seemed as if they were the most likely to have occurred. That gives me great hope for these times in which we live today.

Let’s remember that God’s gracious gift of revival (whether it be to a nation, or a church, or a family, or even to an individual) is never dependent upon the nature of the times or the favorability of the cultural circumstances. In response to this story—and in the light of the times in which we live today—we as His people can and should faithfully and enthusiastically pray for the spread and the success of the gospel of Jesus Christ; confidently crying out;

O Lord, revive Your work in the midst of the years! (Habakkuk 3:2).

  • Share/Bookmark
Site based on the Ministry Theme by eGrace Creative.