“Set Thine House in Order; For Thou Shalt Die” (2 Kings 20; 2 Kings 21)

Scripture Reading –2 Kings 20; 2 Kings 21

Having concluded our study of the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, I am reminded he had prophesied during the reigns of four kings of Judah, with Hezekiah being the fourth (Isaiah 1:1). By the date of today’s text, Israel, represented by the northern ten tribes, had fallen to the Assyrians. Samaria, the capital city of Israel, had been destroyed, and the citizens of Israel taken captive. Following their pattern, Assyria had begun resettling the land of Israel with strangers from other nations, and in time they intermarried with the remnant of Israel. The descendants of the intermarriage of those people, would become known as Samaritans in Christ’s day.

2 Kings 20 – The Sinful Pride of Hezekiah and the Threat of Imminent Death

The narrative in 2 Kings 20 is familiar to “Heart of a Shepherd” readers, for it is a rehearsal of events we studied in Isaiah 38:1-8 and 2 Chronicles 32:24-26.

Our Scripture reading picks up the story of the life and times of Hezekiah, king of Judah. Hezekiah had been a beloved leader of Judah, and the LORD blessed the nation because its king loved the LORD. Leading by example and edict, Hezekiah led the people in a time of spiritual revival, and restored the teachings of the Law and Commandments. He repaired the Temple, revived worship and offerings, and destroyed the worship of idols throughout the land.

2 Kings 20 follows a great victory God had given Judah over Sennacherib, king of Assyria (2 Kings 19; Isaiah 37:36). Soon after Judah’s victory, another crisis befell Judah: King Hezekiah became “sick unto death” (20:1a). God tasked Isaiah with the responsibility of bringing to Hezekiah the news of the king’s impending death. Isaiah warned the king, “Set thine house in order; for thou shalt die, and not live” (20:1).

Think about it: How would you respond if you were given a terminal diagnosis?

Hezekiah modeled what should be the response of all believing saints. The king “turned his face to the wall, and prayed unto the LORD” (20:2). He blocked out everything and everyone, and cried to the LORD, saying, “I beseech [pray] thee, O LORD, remember now how I have walked [behaved] before thee in truth [honor; integrity; faithfully] and with a perfect [complete; undivided; whole] heart, and have done that which is good [better; pleasing] in thy sight. And Hezekiah wept sore [lit. wept violently]” (2 Kings 20:3).

The king began to rehearse his walk with the LORD, and how he had kept God’s covenant. He claimed God’s covenant promise, and clung to the hope the LORD would heal him.

After he had delivered the news of the king’s death, Isaiah went to the Temple, where the LORD found the prophet in “the middle court,” and commanded him: “5Turn 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” (20:5).

Isaiah assured Hezekiah the LORD would heal him “on the third day” (20:5) and would “add unto [his] days fifteen years” (20:6). Tragically, Hezekiah made a grave decision when he greeted ambassadors from Babylon, and in pride, showed them the treasuries of his kingdom (20:12-13). Isaiah, learning of the strangers in the king’s house, confronted the king and questioned him (20:14-15). When Hezekiah confessed his actions, Isaiah condemned the king and prophesied all the Babylonians had seen would be taken away, and his own sons would be forced to serve the king of Babylon (20:16-18).

Hezekiah accepted the prophecy of God’s judgment with humility (20:19), and the chapter concludes with him dying fifteen years later, and his son Manasseh ascending to his father’s throne (20:21).

2 Kings 21

Unlike his father Hezekiah, Manasseh set a course of wickedness that exceeded even the Canaanites, the original occupants of the land (21:2). He established idolatry in the land (21:3), desecrated the Temple (21:4), and offered his son as a sacrifice to idols (21:6).

Manasseh’s sins provoked God’s wrath, and by breaking covenant with God, robbed that nation of the blessings God had promised He would pour out upon the land (21:8). Instead, the king “seduced [beguiled the people] to do more evil than did the nations whom the Lord destroyed before the children of Israel” (21:9).

The LORD sent prophets who confronted the sins of the king and Judah (Jeremiah 2:9-13; Amos 9:7; Habakkuk 1:5), but they would not hearken to their voices (21:10). The prophets warned how Jerusalem would be leveled to the ground (21:12-13) and the people would “become a prey and a spoil to all their enemies” (21:14). Refusing to hear the Word of the LORD and repent, “Manasseh shed innocent blood very much [the blood of the prophets and the righteous ones], till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another” (21:16).

Closing thought – Manasseh died, but was not buried in the tomb of the kings in Jerusalem (21:17-18). His son Amon reigned in his stead, and like his father, “walked in, and served the idols…and worshipped them” (21:19-22). Amon was slain by his servants after reigning for two years (21:23), who were themselves slain by the people (21:24).

Following the glorious reign and revival under Hezekiah, Judah had plunged into a depth of depravity that would have been unimaginable in the previous generation. In one generation, Judah went from a spiritual awakening and the overflowing of God’s blessings, to gross wickedness that included human sacrifice.

A nation, society, church, and ministry is one generation removed from a steep descent into sin that demands God’s judgment.

Are we that generation?

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith