Lesson 9

The Rule of Hezekiah in Judah

(2 Kings 16, 2 Chronicles 29-32)
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Introduction: Would you like to feel the excitement and energy of a spiritual revival? Would you like to rejoice and celebrate what God has done for you? Are family influences, or fellow church members, holding you back? This week our study is of a father and son. The son is a king who led his people into reform, revival and the celebration of the worship of God in Judah even though his father was the worst influence possible. Let's dive into our study!

  1. Ahaz

    1. Read 2 Kings 16:1-4. The Bible gives us an illustration of the extent of the evil done by King Ahaz. What do you think was the most evil thing that he did? (He sacrificed his sons in the fire. See also 2 Chronicles 28:3.)

      1. What do you think King Ahaz hoped to gain by this sacrifice of his sons? (A better life.)

      2. Remember that Abraham was willing to sacrifice Isaac (Genesis 22)? What is different about what Ahaz did?

      3. Do you find any irony in Ahaz's action in sacrificing his sons? (Yes! God gave up His Son to die for our sins. As a result, we do not have to sacrifice our children. God was simply illustrating to Abraham what He intended to do for us. God does not allow the sacrifice of children. He calls this a sin and a "detestable thing" ( Jeremiah 32:35). When Ahaz sacrificed his sons instead of relying on the true God, he killed his sons for no reason. Ahaz could have had both God's blessings and his sons at the same time.)

      4. Do you know people, like Ahaz, who needlessly sacrifice their children? (That is abortion. Instead of trusting in God for the future, we kill our children in the belief that this will somehow make our lives better. This constitutes both the ultimate act of selfishness and a lack of faith in God.)

        1. Are there less extreme examples of child sacrifice that you can think of? What about mothers with small children who work outside the home to make new car payments? What about fathers who never see their children because they are pushing for promotions? (In fifteen years a new car will be junk and the child will be grown. What a trade! I remember being annoyed when my children would try to talk to me when I was reading the newspaper. Then sense would hit me and I would think, "What is the matter with you? The news is nothing. Talking with your children is a most important and fleeting opportunity!" Sometimes we just don't think clearly about these things.)

    2. Read 2 Kings 16:5-6. What trouble does Ahaz face? (Both the Kings of Israel and Aram have joined forces to attack Ahaz. They have some success because Aram is able to claim Elath.)

      1. How do you think Ahaz felt about this attack since we read that Israel and Aram could not overcome him? (Read Isaiah 7:2. Although Ahaz was able to hold them off, he and his people were terrified by this attack.)

    3. Read Isaiah 7:3-7. Did Ahaz and Judah have to worry? Should they have been terrified? (God told Ahaz not to be afraid. Israel and Aram would not tear his country apart.)

    4. Read 2 Kings 16:7-9. What is Ahaz offering Assyria in exchange for its help against Israel and Aram? (He is offering to be the servant of Assyria!)

      1. It worked. The King of Assyria killed the King of Aram ( 2 Kings 16:9) and ultimately destroyed Israel and deported its people ( 2 Kings 17:3-6). What do you think about this deal between Ahaz and the King of Assyria?

        1. How does this plan of Ahaz compare with his decision to sacrifice his sons? (It is exactly the same stupid concept. Instead of trusting God for help, Ahaz gives away his kingdom to Assyria. If Ahaz had just turned to God and trusted in Him in time of trouble he could have had both his sons and his kingdom.)

    5. Read 2 Kings 16:17-18 and 2 Chronicles 28:24. What else did Ahaz change because of his decision to become the servant of Assyria in exchange for its help? (He modified the temple and his worship "in deference to the King of Assyria" to the point that he finally "shut the doors to the temple.")

      1. Have you ever modified your worship of God for the sake of your employer? The sake of new friends? (Ahaz is such a sad picture of reliance on the wrong things in life. He gave up his sons, his kingdom and his worship for no reason. If he had just trusted in God he could have had them all!)

  2. Hezekiah

    1. Read 2 Chronicles 29:1-2. Hezekiah is one son of Ahaz who managed to avoid the fire. He becomes King of Judah. What kind of kingdom do you think Hezekiah inherited? (It was a shambles. Pagan gods were set up on every corner of Jerusalem ( 2 Chronicles 28:24). The country was under the thumb of the Assyrians.)

      1. When evil seems to have control of everything around you, what do you do? Do you just "go along?" "Go with the flow?"

    2. Let's read what Hezekiah did. Read 2 Chronicles 29:3-11. How long did Hezekiah wait to start changing the evil status quo? (He started the change immediately!)

      1. Why was he so motivated to change what was all around him? (The reason why the place was in a shambles, evil abounded, and the neighbors alternated between feeling sorry for them and laughing at them, was that they had turned away from God.)

    3. Let's skip down to 2 Chronicles 30:1-4. How fast was Hezekiah moving in his reforms? (He was moving so quickly he was ahead of the people and the priests.)

      1. Is that the way reform should be in our churches? Should leaders wait for the people to catch up to them? Or, should they run ahead of the people?

      2. Notice that the Passover is being celebrated. Why do you think Hezekiah chose to celebrate Passover as his next reform after putting the temple back in operation? (You remember that King Jeroboam decided to set up "golden calf worship" by announcing "Here are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt." ( 1 Kings 12:28). Being saved from slavery in Egypt was the most important historical event for the average Jew. The Deuteronomy version of the Ten Commandments ( Deuteronomy 5:12-15) explicitly ties the weekly worship of God to the exodus from Egypt. Since Passover was the celebration of God's work in saving His people from slavery, Hezekiah was a man of "first principles." He moved quickly to reinstate the fundamental principles of worship - giving credit to the true God of Heaven for this important event.)

      3. What do you see in the reformers of today? Are they focused on "first principles?" Or, are they obsessed with obscure and debatable theological points?

    4. Read 2 Chronicles 30:18-20. We learned in the first few verses of this chapter that Hezekiah could not celebrate Passover on the correct date for practical reasons. We learn here that a bunch of "unclean" people improperly ate the Passover for other practical reasons. What theological lesson do you draw from this? (The key to a proper view of all this malfeasance is found in v. 19: "set[ting the] heart on seeking God." Friend, we should not ignore God's rules, as did Hezekiah's predecessors. But, the teaching of this text is that our primary concern is with the attitude of our minds. The attitude is far more important than any details.)

      1. Our lesson (Friday) refers to this situation as an "emergency" ("emergencies must be met"). Do you agree? (The only emergency was that the people had been ignoring God's word for a very long time. If this is an emergency, then every sinner constitutes an emergency. The theological principle presented here should not be undercut by labeling this an "emergency.")

    5. Read 2 Chronicles 30:21&26-27. Let's get this straight. This unclean group of people, meeting at the wrong time, failed to be sighing and crying about their sins and short-comings (which were obvious). Instead, they spent seven days celebrating and rejoicing with songs and "instruments of praise." (The KJV says "loud instruments.") Judging by some of the things I read today, God surely must have been offended! Is that what the Bible says? (As opposed to what some so-called reformers say today, the Bible tells us that God heard their prayers and their blessings in His home in heaven!)

    6. Read 2 Chronicles 30:23. The people could not get enough of celebrating and praising their God. They decided to do it for another seven days. How about your church service? Are people refusing to leave at the end of the worship? Are they rushing right back for more? Does your assembly agree to spend another hour in worship because they had such a great time praising and worshiping God with their instruments of praise?

      1. Is it possible you need a Hezekiah in your church?

      2. Is it possible that, as a practical matter, the doors of your church are "closed" because the service is so dead and boring?

    7. Let's turn a corner and find out if all this worship of God was the genuine article or just fluff. Read 2 Chronicles 32:1, 9-13. What is the answer to these questions - on what was Hezekiah trusting? (The great God of Heaven.)

      1. What about the question in v. 13 - had any other god ever stopped the Assyrians?

      2. Had the God of Heaven stopped the Assyrians before? (He had not stopped them from mowing through Israel before, or putting King Ahaz (Hezekiah's father) under the authority of the Assyrians.)

        1. Why should the people think things would be different now? That was the question King Sennacherib of Assyria wanted to know. What is your answer? (The hearts of the people had turned to God. They rejoiced in celebrating their new relationship.)

    8. Read 2 Chronicles 32:20-21. Was the religious experience of the people real or was it fluff? When a crisis over the very existence of the nation was at stake, what did God do in response to their prayers?

    9. Friend, God calls on you today to consider the "first principles" of religion. Instead of being absorbed in details, consider the state of your heart. Have you experienced that heart conversion that causes you to rejoice and celebrate what God has done and continues to do for you? How about your fellow church members? Do they come to church to rejoice and praise? If not, is it time for you, like Hezekiah, to "open" the doors of your church to the true worship of God?

  3. Next Week: "Meanwhile ... Back in the North."

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Lessons on Rebellion and Reformation: A History of the Divided Monarchy

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