*August 24 - 30
The Rule of Hezekiah in Judah
MEMORY TEXT: "This is what Hezekiah did throughout Judah, doing what was good and right and faithful before the Lord his God" (2 Chronicles 31:20).
AMAZIAH, UZZIAH, AND JOTHAM. We last left Judah with the death of Joash, the child-king who apostatized later in life and who, after being wounded by Syrian invaders, was killed by his own servants as he lay wounded in bed (2 Chron. 24:23-25). Next came Amaziah, who did what was right in the sight of the Lord "but not with a loyal heart" (2 Chron. 25:2, NKJV) and who, after massacring thousands of pagans, worshiped their gods (vss. 5-16). After his death (790 B.C.), Uzziah ruled for fifty-two quite prosperous years in Jerusalem; though, lifted up with pride, he entered the temple and burned incense (which was not lawful for him to do), an act that brought upon him the instantaneous judgment of God in the form of leprosy (2 Chronicles 26). Next came Jotham, who "became mighty, because he prepared his ways before the Lord his God" (2 Chron. 27:6). After his death, his son, Ahaz, who was disloyal to God (2 Chronicles 28), ruled, and then after Ahaz, Hezekiah. This week we will study the reigns of these last two kings, Ahaz and Hezekiah.
THE WEEK AT A GLANCE: What was Ahaz's problem? What was the state of Judah by the time Hezekiah ascended to the throne? What were the key elements of the revival he started? What role did an understanding of the gospel play in this revival?
*Study this week's lesson to prepare for Sabbath, August 31.
Sunday August 25
After a run of kings who, all things considered, could have been worse, Judah now suffered under the 16-year rule of Ahaz, which brought the nation to "conditions more appalling than any that had hitherto existed in the realm of Judah."Ellen G. White, Prophets and Kings, p. 322.
Read 2 Kings 16:1-4. What were the sins mentioned there?
Meanwhile, when Judah had been attacked by a coalition of Israel and Syriaan encounter known as the Syro-Ephraimite WarAhaz sought help from the Assyrians, despite the counsel from the prophet Isaiah, who said that the attack would not succeed (see Isa. 7:1-9).
Read Isaiah 7:1-9 and answer the following questions:
1. What did Isaiah say to Ahaz about the power and influence of Syria (Aram)? Isa. 7:1; of Israel (Ephraim)? Isa. 7:1-9, and what was Ahaz's reaction? Isa. 7:10-12.
2. Why was Ahaz's response, that of not wanting to "tempt" the Lord, the wrong answer in this particular instance? Isa. 7:12, 13.
Read 2 Kings 16:7-18. Look at what happened. Judah received the military help it needed but at what cost? The king, possibly at the prodding of the Assyrians, ended up incorporating Assyrian paganism into the temple itself, even to the point of redoing aspects of the temple in order to accommodate Assyrian gods. He eventually cut up pieces of "the articles of the house of God" (NKJV), closed down the temple, and made for himself altars in various parts of the city (2 Chron. 28:24, 25).
|Ahaz probably did not start out as corrupt as he became. It was, more than likely, a slow, step-by-step process. If early in his reign he would have been told that he would be doing some of the things he eventually did, he probably would have been appalled; however, the corrupting process came slowly, in small steps, as it usually does. Look at your own life and ask yourself, Could this same thing be happening to me, as well?|
By the time Hezekiah ascended the throne, the ravages of his father's reign were seen everywhere: "In a few well-chosen words [2 Chron. 29:5-10] the king reviewed the situation they were facingthe closed temple and the cessation of all services within its precincts; the flagrant idolatry practiced in the streets of the city and throughout the kingdom; the apostasy of multitudes who might have remained true to God had the leaders in Judah set before them a right example; and the decline of the kingdom and loss of prestige in the estimation of surrounding nations." Ellen G. White, Prophets and Kings, p. 332.
How does Micah describe the spiritual condition of Judah at the time Hezekiah became king?
Mic. 2:1 _____________________________________________________________________________
Mic. 2:2 _____________________________________________________________________________
Mic. 3:11 (the priesthood) ______________________________________________________________
Mic. 3:11 (the prophets) _______________________________________________________________
Mic. 7:2-6 ___________________________________________________________________________
Look at the words of Hezekiah: "For our fathers have trespassed, 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, and turned their backs. Also they have shut up the doors of the porch, and put out the lamps, and have not burned incense nor offered burnt offerings in the holy place unto the God of Israel" (2 Chron. 29:6, 7).
Perhaps, nothing spoke louder of their apostasy than the fact that they had shut down the temple itself. The edifice that God Himself had established (Exod. 25:8), the place where He would manifest Himself to His people (Exod. 29:42, 43), the place where they should praise and acknowledge Him as Creator and Redeemer (Pss. 132:7; 138:2), the place where He reigns (Ps. 99:1, 2), the place where He had centered His salvation activity (Ps. 24:3-5)all of this had been openly abandoned by the Judeans. What a testimony to how low they had fallen.
|Judah abandoned the sanctuary and hence the truth associated with it. What lessons are here for us, who also have a sanctuary with attendant truths, as well?|
"And he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that David his father did. He removed the high places, and brake the images, and cut down the groves, and brake in pieces the brasen serpent that Moses had made: for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it: and he called it Nehushtan. He 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" (2 Kings 18:3-5).
Read 2 Kings 18:1-4. Why would Hezekiah break apart the bronze serpent that Moses had made (Num. 21:8, 9)? Why would such a "holy" object need to be destroyed?
Among the things that Hezekiah did that were right in the sight of the Lord was that "he removed the high places" (2 Kings 18:4). That is interesting, especially because most of the previous kings, even those who were deemed as good, did not remove these high places (1 Kings 22:43; 2 Kings 12:3; 14:4). Though much speculation exists regarding the exact nature of these high places, they seemed to be altars where pagan gods were worshiped on the model of the Canaanite religion. Hezekiah is the first Judean king recorded as having removed them, a testimony to the seriousness with which he was undertaking his reforms.
Look up the following texts that deal with the reforms under Hezekiah. What part do each of these play in his reformation?
1. 2 Kings 18:5-7 _____________________________________________________________________
2. 2 Chron. 29:4, 5, 11 _________________________________________________________________
3. 2 Chron. 29:10 _____________________________________________________________________
4. 2 Chron. 30:1-19 ___________________________________________________________________
5. 2 Chron. 31:1 ______________________________________________________________________
Not only did he reinstate proper worship, Hezekiah wasted no time in deposing all wrong practices, because he apparently knew that no matter how many good things he instituted, no matter how many proper forms and traditions were followed, the existence of sinful practices would, eventually, poison everything.
One of the first reforms instituted under Hezekiah was the reinstatement of the Passover, long neglected in the nation. In fact, the chapter presents the first written reference to the Passover since the days of Joshua (see Josh. 5:10).
Read the account of the Passover in 2 Chronicles 30 and answer the following questions:
1. Who were invited to the Passover? 2 Chron. 30:1, 5.
2. Read through the letter Hezekiah sent in 2 Chronicles 30:6-9. How is the blessing/retribution cycle outlined here?
3. What was the general reaction in Israel to this call for revival? 2 Chron. 30:10, 11.
4. Verse 11 reveals the attitude of those who accepted the invitation. What was that attitude, and why is that so important for anyone who wants to serve the Lord? Can we truly serve Him without it?
Read verses 14-20 in this chapter. Notice the words of Hezekiah regarding those who had sinned by eating the Passover before they were ritually clean. "The good Lord pardon every one that prepareth his heart to seek God" (vss. 18, 19). What a beautiful expression of the gospel: God forgives those who, having sinned, nevertheless prepare their hearts to seek the Lord (see Deut. 4:29; Ps. 105:3, 4; Isa. 55:6).
How appropriate, too, that these would be expressed during the time of the Passover, one of the Old Testament's clearest expressions in type of salvation by faith in the blood of Jesus (Exod. 12:13; 1 Cor. 5:7). These people, having no merit in themselves, could only humble themselves before the Lord and seek Him in faith, humility, and repentance.
|A revival that centers around Passover? What a great idea! When one considers how Jesus Christ as our Savior and Substitute forms the hub of the whole notion of Passover, a revival centered around that makes great sense. Why would any among us who attempt a reform not centered around Jesus and the blood of Jesus be doomed to fail?|
The situation Judah and Hezekiah had faced was this: After years of paying tribute to the Assyrians, who were then dominating the region, Hezekiah decided to revolt, allying himself with Egypt, despite the warnings of Isaiah against this policy (Isa. 30:1-5; 31:1-3). Then the Assyrians, under the reign of Sennacherib, steamrolled their way through Israel, leaving terror and destruction in their wake. With the Assyrian armies knocking (not politely) at the doors, Hezekiah changed his mind about the revolt and sent tribute to them (2 Kings 18:14-16). This, however, was not enough, and Sennacherib demanded unconditional surrender, something that Hezekiah refused to do. (Apparently, there were two Assyrian invasions, although it is difficult to tell in the biblical text where one ends and another begins.) See Friday's material for more information. Nevertheless, in one of these assaults, the Assyrians sent a letter to the Judeans, warning them not to listen to Hezekiah's promises that God would save them.
Kings 18:28-37, the words of Sennacherib to the Judeans. From one
perspective, they sound pretty convincing. After all, none of the gods of
the other nations saved those people from his army. What makes the Judeans
think that their God will do any better for them? Don't listen to Hezekiah;
surrender to me and spare yourselves the same fate as these others who had
trusted in their gods. Imagine being a Judean inside
the city walls with a massive, vicious army outside, mocking your God and
offering you wonderful promises if only you surrender. Yet, according to
the text, the people "held their peace and answered him not a word; for the
king's commandment was, 'Do not answer him"
Kings 18:36, NKJV). Suppose, instead of this king being Hezekiah, it
was Ahaz or Jehoram or any of the kings who had been in deep apostasy and
who led their people into apostasy? Would the people have been so ready to
listen? What was it about Hezekiah that caused them to trust him and his
promises of God's deliverance? What role did the revival and reformation
under him have in helping strengthen the people's faith that God would deliver
them? Imagine if there had been no revival. The outcome could have been quite
Kings 19:35-37 to see what happened to the Assyrians.
What does all this tell us about how there are no substitutes for faithfulness, trust, and obedience when it comes to being fortified for whatever battles and challenges we face on any level? How can we take the principle of what happened here, nationally, and apply it to ourselves, personally, in the assaults upon ourselves that we, in this life, will, inevitably, in one form or another, face?
There were apparently two invasions of Judah by the Assyrians about twenty-five years apart. The first one in 701 B.C. is well-documented in history. See The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 2, pp. 955, 956:13, "The fourteenth year," for an outline of the two views. In Prophets and Kings, pages 339, 349-366, Ellen White presents the information about these events as two distinct events. The biblical record mixes the two, probably because the focus is on how the Lord solved the problem and not so much on chronological concerns.
When David Nhavotso of Mozambique became an Adventist, he found a new calling in lifeevangelism. He loves to share his love for Christ.
David works for the railroad. His superiors allowed him to work on Sunday instead of Sabbath, but they warned him not to share his faith at work. However, David could not keep his faith a secret. When his co-workers asked him why he no longer worked on Saturday, he told them. Soon he was giving two of his friends Bible studies.
While visiting his brother in another town, David met a Protestant pastor and shared the Sabbath truth with him. When the pastor resisted this new truth, David read him John 14:15," 'If you love me, you will obey what I command,' "and Isaiah 30:21," 'This is the way; walk in it'
(MV). The pastor then said, "Come to my church tonight. Tell the people about the Sabbath. If they accept it, you may study the Bible with them."
David presented the Sabbath message to 40 people that evening. "We have never heard this before," they cried. "Will you come and teach us more?" David returned the next day, Sabbath morning, and again on Sunday to teach the people. He found the church packed. While some resisted the new truth, many wanted to begin keeping the Sabbath immediately. But David had to return home. He urged the people to study the Bible and let God teach them.
Several weeks later the Protestant pastor invited David to come study with several people who wanted to become Seventh-day Adventists. David took a three-week leave from work and invited his own pastor to accompany him to study with the people. They found that a number of people had been keeping the Sabbath and had saved their tithes and offerings, which they presented to David's pastor.
Nineteen people were baptized, including the Protestant pastor and his wife. The believers have established a new church in town which has quickly grown to 60 members. It has a weekly attendance of about 100.
David is not sitting still. He has begun giving Bible studies to interested people in another village where there is no Adventist congregation.
Charlotte Ishkanian is editor of Mission.
Join the SSNET moderated email discussion group. You are also warmly invited to join a group discussion of this lesson Sabbath morning with your local Seventh-day Adventist congregation.
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