Nipping At Our Heels

“Set your house in order, for you shall die and not live” Isaiah 38:1

In my teenage years I frequently and often worked in my neighbour’s dairy in school holidays and weekends. He had a black and white border collie dog named Rastus that had a particularly useful skill for rounding up the cows. At considerable risk he would nip the heels of a cow and then drop flat on the ground to avoid the inevitable hoof flashing over his head. For extra fun he would also have a swing on a cow’s tail. He lived to a ripe old age without ever being hit by a hoof. King Hezekiah had a dog nipping at his heels as well, a dog called pride.

The apostle Paul would later write, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain … I am hard pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you” (Philippians 1:21-23). Paul’s desire was to be with the One he loved but he was willing to postpone that joy for the sake of the mission Jesus had given him. Let us compare that with King Hezekiah.

When Hezekiah was told of his impending death he went to the Lord asking for more time. We can discern his motive by his prayer. It was quite different to Paul’s desire. His request was based on his earthly position. He wanted to enjoy and boast of the earthly blessings God had given him in preference to the joy of actually being with the Lord. There is no suggestion that he wanted to remain for the sake of God’s will or God’s people.

This becomes even more obvious when the messengers from Babylon came to visit. He showed them “the silver and gold, the spices and precious ointment, and all his armoury – all that was found among his treasures. There was nothing in his house or in all his dominion that Hezekiah did not show them” (Isaiah 39:2). The dog named pride was nipping at his heels guiding him to a gate called “Stumbling” and he did not resist it. He boasted as if he had obtained all he enjoyed by his own effort. Pride will dog us all of our earthly lives so we need to learn how to recognise it and make our resistance effective.

We need to regularly check our motives as to whether we love Jesus Christ or just the blessings He gives. Hezekiah loved the worldly blessings in preference to the Giver of the blessings. Consequently he desired a longer life on earth absent from the Lord. In the end he lost it all and all the good he had previously done for Israel unravelled after he died.

What if the Lord should say these words to you today? As we consider our response we will discover whether it really is Jesus we love or whether it is just the blessings He gives. Will you respond like Paul or like Hezekiah? When it is Jesus we love we will readily receive His command to come home and ask for no delay. His timing will be perfect.

The Best Outcome

“I have found the book of the Law in the house of the Lord”   2 Kings 22:8

It is always an interest of mine to notice the effects one generation has on the next to see what impact there is. Key to this is to discover who influenced a person when they were very young. In the Bible it is sometimes impossible to know and other times it may be little more than a guess but there are some clues given.

Hezekiah was 25 years old when he became king of Judah. His father, Ahaz, had introduced Judah to a syncretic religion, a blend of the Law given through Moses and other religions of the region. We are told that Hezekiah’s mother was Abi, a daughter of Zechariah. This suggests that Hezekiah may have been influenced more by his grandfather (on his mother’s side) than by his father.

Hezekiah went further than any king since David to cleanse Judah of false religion. He developed an intimate walk with the Lord, trusting and obeying the Word of God.

Assyria had already displaced the northern tribes of Israel when Sennacherib came against Judah. Hezekiah demonstrated his trust in the Lord by resisting Sennacherib and seeking counsel from the Lord.

Later, however, when told by the Lord of his imminent death Hezekiah asked for healing. The Lord gave him an extra fifteen years. Almost right away Hezekiah demonstrated that pride was the reason he did not want to go and be with the Lord. He loved the glory of wealth and power and took credit for his success forgetting that it was the Lord who had given him all. God forbid that we should prefer to remain in this world rather than be present with the Lord.

Hezekiah turned from trusting the Lord and it was in that time that he bore a son, Manasseh, who would become king at just twelve years of age. He was raised by a father who was attempting to steal glory that rightly belonged to the Lord and had turned from following the Lord.

The outworking of that is that Manasseh did evil, returning Judah to a syncretic religious state. His son Amon was born and raised in that environment but a few years before his death Manasseh repented and turned to the Lord. It was in these years of revival that his grandson, Josiah, was born.

Amon was a wicked and evil king but fortunately reigned only two years. Josiah began to reign at just eight years of age. He may have been influenced by Manasseh’s repentance and did more to cleanse Judah than any before him.

How each of us live our lives will affect our children and grandchildren. The best outcome for our children and grandchildren will always be if we continually trust, obey and walk with the Lord.

Prayer Hazards

“Surely at the commandment of the Lord this came upon Judah, to remove them from His sight because of the sins of Manasseh.” (2 Kings 24:3)

Last week we noted how refreshing it was to read of a king who sought counsel of the LORD. How is it then that the sins of his son were the ‘last straw’ with the Lord’s patience?

Young or prospective parents would do well to note the circumstances of this grievous transition.

Manasseh’s father, King Hezekiah, had been faithful to the LORD; however, in his later years something changed and it is revealed in a prayer.
There are a number of prayers in the Bible in which the motive was sinful yet the LORD gave the request. In each case there was a sad consequence. Israel prayed for a king like the nations around them, contrary to the will of God, and He gave them their request to their sorrow. Gideon prayed for signs and God gave him his request. Signs are for the unbelieving and Gideon’s family suffered grievously because of his unbelief.

In Hezekiah we have a similar situation. He is sick and had been informed he will die so he pleads with the LORD to live. The Lord grants his desire. Can there be anything wrong with praying to live longer? It pleased the LORD to raise Dorcas from the dead through Peter (Acts 9:36-43) so what could be wrong with Hezekiah praying such a prayer?

The answer is in motive. It isn’t what we pray but why we pray what we pray.

As we read on we discover that the motive for Hezekiah’s prayer was not for the good of God’s people but so that Hezekiah could boast of his achievements. Pride had risen in his heart and instead of preferring to be with the LORD he preferred to revel in what he thought was his glory.
What has this to do with Manasseh? Manasseh was born three years after Hezekiah prayed. He did not witness all the good his father had done. He only witnessed his father taking glory for that which God had done.

Although Manasseh did repent late in his life, the damage was done.

By all means pray and keep praying but always guard your motive. Is it to bring glory to the LORD or to me? Beware the deceitfulness of the heart when discerning your own motive. Ask the Holy Spirit to search for wrong motives and correct them.

It seems to this writer that God intended to keep Hezekiah alive so that Manasseh would be born because he is in the royal line to Messiah (Matthew 1:10) so the prayer needed to be prayed. It was Hezekiah’s motive that brought things undone.