Script for the May 14th episode of the “Enjoying the Bible” podcast.
Welcome to the May 14th episode of the “Enjoying the Bible” podcast. I’m Matt Ellis, and I’m the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Polk City, Florida.
Today’s reading is in 2 Kings 19-21. Hopefully, you’ve already spent time in God’s Word so let’s get started.
2 Kings 19
In yesterday‘s Bible reading, we observed the Assyrian Royal spokesman taunting and demoralizing the citizens of Jerusalem. Word was brought to Hezekiah, and all hope seemed lost.
But as we were first introduced to King Hezekiah, we were told that he was a man who feared the Lord and obeyed Him. He seemed absolutely sincere, and his devotion to the Lord seemed heartfelt.
So how will Hezekiah respond to this hopeless situation? How would you respond if an army had surrounded your city and essentially said, “Surrender or die!” Second Kings 19 tells us how a godly man responded.
2 Kings 19:1 (CSB): “When King Hezekiah heard their report, he tore his clothes, covered himself with sackcloth, and went into the Lord’s temple.”
He went to seek the Lord! Here is an important spiritual principle: “There is much that we may do AFTER we pray, but there is nothing we should do BEFORE we pray.”
But Hezekiah wasn’t content to be the only leader praying. He wanted another very respected man to join him in desperate cries for help to the God of Heaven. So he sent some of the men who had heard what the Assyrian spokesman said, to the prophet Isaiah. They explained the unenviable situation they were all in. Then they said…
2 Kings 19:4 (CSB): “Perhaps the Lord your God will hear all the words of the royal spokesman, whom his master the king of Assyria sent to mock the living God, and will rebuke him for the words that the Lord your God has heard. Therefore, offer a prayer for the surviving remnant.”
Isaiah sent a message back to Hezekiah…
2 Kings 19:6-7 (CSB): “6 … ‘Tell your master, “The Lord says this: Don’t be afraid because of the words you have heard, with which the king of Assyria’s attendants have blasphemed me. 7 I am about to put a spirit in him, and he will hear a rumor and return to his own land, where I will cause him to fall by the sword.” ’ ”
The Lord, through His prophet Isaiah, said that there was nothing to fear. King Sennacherib of Assyria will head back home where he will die by the sword.
OK, friend, there’s something we need to think about here. God has spoken through Isaiah. His words are very encouraging. But this leaves King Hezekiah with a choice: will he trust in the words Isaiah has said and find rest even though the circumstances have not yet changed? Or will he doubt the words and continue living in fear and defeat?
This is the same choice we are continually faced with when we read God’s Word. We may wish that we could have a prophet like Isaiah to speak God‘s word to us. But those sentiments only reveal that we don’t realize God HAS spoken to us through Isaiah. We have a whole book in the Old Testament that Isaiah wrote. So as we read the book of Isaiah or any other biblical book and God’s Holy Spirit assures our hearts that God is giving us one of His precious promises, we are faced with the same choice as Hezekiah. Will we trust or will we fret?
Friend, God has meant every single word in the Bible. He will fulfill every single promise in our lives, assuming we have the right to claim it. The Holy Spirit and clear, serious thinking will allow us to know whether God is speaking a word to us or not.
I just want us to realize that Hezekiah would’ve been comforted by Isaiah‘s words, but only if he trusted in them. And we can find that same rest in our own lives, even as the storms of trouble are circling around us if we have a word from the Lord and rest in by trusting God to bring it to pass.
In verses 8-13, we read that the Assyrian spokesman left, because a greater threat was made against the Assyrian king. But the spokesman didn’t leave without some final words. He wanted the people to know that they hadn’t heard the last of him. Assyria would be back to destroy Jerusalem just as they had destroyed so many other cities and regions.
What we observe next is that these fresh threats from the Assyrian spokesman moved Hezekiah to even more passionate levels of praying. He wasn’t merely sending half-hearted words up to Heaven. He was broken, crying out from a heart that desperately needed the Lord to hear and answer. These are the sort of prayers that God loves to answer.
I love these next two verses!
2 Kings 19:14-15 (CSB): “Hezekiah took the letter from the messengers’ hands, read it, then went up to the Lord’s temple, and spread it out before the Lord. 15 Then Hezekiah prayed before the Lord:”
Hezekiah took the issue that he was facing, went to the Lord with it, and then unrolled it so that the Lord could read it. Of course, the Lord already knew the contents of the letter long before it was ever written. But Hezekiah’s actions powerfully demonstrate that we are to take our concerns to the Lord and pour our hearts out before him. He already knows what we’re dealing with, but He wants us to talk to him about it. In fact, there may be many answers to prayer that we never received because we never ask for them, at least according to James 4:2.
As we read what appears to be a summary of Hezekiah‘s prayer, we are reminded that our prayers should include praising the Lord and resting in His powerful care. We don’t put our heads in the proverbial sand but acknowledge and identify what the real problem is. And then we call God to action, trusting that He will do what is best.
In verses 20–34, God speaks through Isaiah. Isaiah sent a messenger to Hezekiah who said that the Lord ruled sovereignly over Assyria and they would not defeat Jerusalem. But I want you to listen to the final words that the Lord revealed to Hezekiah. Specifically, listen for the one that the Lord is doing this for? Is God answering this request primarily for Hezekiah? Or for the people of Jerusalem? Who is God doing this for?
2 Kings 19:34 (CSB): “I will defend this city and rescue it for my sake and for the sake of my servant David.”
God said that He would answer Hezekiah’s request for David’s sake. David was a man after God’s own heart simply because God had chosen to shower David with grace.
But the Lord also said: “for my sake.” The Lord was doing it for Himself.
As you read through the Old Testament, realize that this is a major theme. God acts “for His name’s sake.” He does things for His own glory. In fact, you are well aware of a passage of Scripture where this language shows up…
Psalm 23:1-3 (CSB): “1 The LORD is my shepherd; I have what I need. 2 He lets me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside quiet waters. 3 He renews my life; he leads me along the right paths for his name’s sake.”
God is the greatest being in and beyond our universe. For God to exalt something else above Himself would be idolatry. He is the only being that SHOULD exalt Himself since there is none greater. So we are not surprised when He acts for the benefit of His own name’s sake. In fact, it is right and holy for Him to do so. He is God, after all!
Among other things, the frequency of this phrase in the Old Testament lets us know that if we want our prayers to be answered, don’t be self-centered. Don’t primarily focus on how you will benefit. There is nothing wrong with asking for prayers that would benefit us. Hezekiah’s prayer was motivated for his own safety and rescue. But ultimately make your prayers God-centered. Ask yourself: “How will my prayer request demonstrate God’s goodness?” When you get that answer, then pray that way. Those are the prayers that God really listens to.
In the final verses of 2 Kings 19, we read that the Lord killed 185,000 men in the Assyrian army that were camped outside the walls of Jerusalem. This was apparently most of the Assyrian military force in that area. King Sennacherib returned to Nineveh and was assassinated by his own sons. Another son, Esar-haddon, became king of Assyria.
2 Kings 20
The short story we are invited into in 2 Kings 20 is theologically fascinating. Let’s talk about it.
2 Kings 20:1 (CSB): “In those days Hezekiah became terminally ill. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz came and said to him, ‘This is what the Lord says: “Set your house in order, for you are about to die; you will not recover.” ’ ”
This is as straightforward as you can get. The Lord, through the prophet Isaiah, said that Hezekiah needed to prepare for his death because it was going to happen shortly.
What did Hezekiah do? He’s a godly man. He loves the Lord. So what was his first response?
2 Kings 20:2-3 (CSB): “2 Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, 3 ‘Please, Lord, remember how I have walked before you faithfully and wholeheartedly and have done what pleases you.’ And Hezekiah wept bitterly.”
His specific request is not given, but we’re led to believe that Hezekiah was asking to live longer. For whatever reason, he wasn’t ready to die yet.
But the Lord had already said he would die shortly. The words of the Lord through Isaiah were emphatic: “you will not recover.”
The Lord has spoken. There appeared to be no use in praying. But Hezekiah prayed. So what did the Lord do? Had the Lord essentially backed Himself into a corner so that He couldn’t respond to Hezekiah’s sincere prayer for healing?
2 Kings 20:4-6 (CSB): “4 Isaiah had not yet gone out of the inner courtyard when the word of the Lord came to him: 5 ‘Go back and tell Hezekiah, the leader of my people, “This is what the Lord God of your ancestor David says: I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears. Look, I will heal you. On the third day from now you will go up to the Lord’s temple. 6 I will add fifteen years to your life. I will rescue you and this city from the grasp of the king of Assyria. I will defend this city for my sake and for the sake of my servant David.” ’ ”
Friends, God had previously said that Hezekiah would live only a short time and wouldn’t recover. Then Hezekiah prays, and God tells him that he will recover and live 15 more years.
Theologically, I’m left scratching my head. How can a God who doesn’t change appear to change His mind in response to a godly man’s prayer?
Well, I’ve discovered the joy that can come when I realize there are certain things in Scripture that I just can’t understand, but I believe them anyway. When I read this story, I am reminded that prayer is powerful because it reaches the very heart of God. It may even seem that things are set, and prayer would be futile. Yet, we should pray anyway because we just never know how God may respond, even miraculously, to our heartfelt petitions to Heaven.
Then, we read that Isaiah called for “a lump of pressed figs” to be applied to Hezekiah’s infected wound. Whether this was medicine at work or was simply a miracle isn’t clear. But it tells me that sometimes God uses medicine and other things as the ways in which He answers prayer. If a dear loved one is sick and in the hospital and you are praying for their healing, also pray that God would use the medical personnel, medical procedures, and medicines to bring healing if that is His will.
In verses 8-11, we read of a miracle that God performed to assure Hezekiah that he would be made well. We aren’t sure how this happened. Did the earth’s rotation get altered? Did the sun move? Was there another explanation for how God miraculously did this? We don’t know. We’ll have to ask the Lord when we get to Heaven how He did this.
When we get to verses 12-19, we read of some envoys from Babylon who came to Hezekiah with gifts and letters. Assyria was the major world power. Babylon was a long distance away, and Hezekiah didn’t perceive them to be a threat at all. So he showed them everything in his treasure house, his armory, his palace, and anything else of worth.
What didn’t Hezekiah do on this occasion that he had previously done? He didn’t pray. He didn’t seek the Lord. Instead, he saw an opportunity to give expression to his pride by showing off all of his wealth to envoys of a nation that was so far away as to not be considered a threat.
Yet, when Isaiah heard about it, he was incensed. He made it clear that there was coming a day when everything Hezekiah showed to those envoys would be carried off to Babylon. Isaiah even said that some of Hezekiah’s very own descendants would be taken captive, like those in Israel, and they would be carried off to Babylon.
So, what did Hezekiah do when he heard this? Did he pray as he had done so often before? Would he seek the Lord’s forgiveness? Would he pray that God would turn from His wrath and not take his descendants to Babylon? We’re disappointed when we realize that he did not pray. He was merely thankful that God’s judgment wouldn’t come during his lifetime.
2 Kings 20:19 (CSB): “Then Hezekiah said to Isaiah, ‘The word of the Lord that you have spoken is good,’ for he thought, ‘Why not, if there will be peace and security during my lifetime?’ ”
Everything in us is crying out for Hezekiah to pray. But he doesn’t.
In a few chapters, we will read about another king of Judah, a man named Josiah, another king that I greatly respect. He will essentially hear the same thing. He will hear that his descendants will be carried off into captivity. But he doesn’t merely sit back and thank the Lord that it won’t happen in his lifetime. He takes action. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
This chapter ends with the death of a man who led so well but ended so badly.
2 Kings 20:21 (CSB): “Hezekiah rested with his ancestors, and his son Manasseh became king in his place.”
Friends, let’s not merely be content to run our race well. Let’s determine, by the Lord’s grace, to finish well.
2 Kings 21
Now that Hezekiah has died, his son will take over. But he’s not going to be a good king. There will be a few good moments, but he will primarily be known as a wicked monarch.
2 Kings 21:1-2 (CSB): “1 Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king, and he reigned fifty-five years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Hephzibah. 2 He did what was evil in the Lord’s sight, imitating the detestable practices of the nations that the Lord had dispossessed before the Israelites.”
After going through a list of the evil things he did, we read of yet another king of Judah who killed his own children as an act of perverted worship.
2 Kings 21:6 (CSB): “He sacrificed his son in the fire, practiced witchcraft and divination, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did a huge amount of evil in the Lord’s sight, angering him.”
Manasseh was wicked and encouraged his people to follow in his footsteps. That’s why we must also realize that competence is not the only thing we need in leaders. We also must demand character. Because as people watch the leader, they will eventually follow in his or her footsteps.
In verses 10-15, we read that the Lord, through His servants the prophets, said that because of Manasseh’s evil, and because he had caused Judah to follow in his wickedness, destruction was coming upon Judah.
But when we realize that Manasseh reigned for 55 years, we hear something else in God’s warning. We hear of God’s patience. He isn’t jumping quickly into judgment upon Israel. He is warning them. He is calling for them to realize that they are living in such a way as to justify His anger at them. Essentially, He is giving them an opportunity to repent.
Friend, this is who our God is. He doesn’t delight in judgment until it is time to do so. Instead, we read that He is completely patient and desires repentance.
Just listen to what the Apostle Peter wrote about the Lord and His patience:
2 Peter 3:9 (CSB): “The Lord does not delay his promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance.”
This is why the second half of the Old Testament is solely written by the prophets. God sent prophets, over and over and over, to warn His people about their sin, and call them back. He doesn’t delight in immediately bringing judgment upon us. He desires that we return to Him.
Again, listen to what Jesus said about this. And when you listen to this familiar verse, realize that it isn’t saying that the angels are filled with joy. It’s someone else…
Luke 15:10 (CSB): “I tell you, in the same way, there is joy in the presence of God’s angels over one sinner who repents.”
I think that the Lord is the One who is “in the presence of God’s angels.” It is God who is celebrating!
Well, Manasseh’s 55-year reign came and went. It’s as if his life was merely a vapor – it was here, and then it was gone.
2 Kings 21:18 (CSB): “Manasseh rested with his ancestors and was buried in the garden of his own house, the garden of Uzza. His son Amon became king in his place.”
So let’s get introduced to the next king of Judah. And by the way, you already realize that the writer of 2 Kings will no longer refer to a king in Israel. That nation is gone. Thousands upon thousands of people have died, and many more have been forcibly taken into captivity.
2 Kings 21:19-20 (CSB): “19 Amon was twenty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned two years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Meshullemeth daughter of Haruz; she was from Jotbah. 20 He did what was evil in the Lord’s sight, just as his father Manasseh had done.”
Yet another wicked king. But why did he reign for only two years? What incident cut his life short?
2 Kings 21:23-24 (CSB): “23 Amon’s servants conspired against him and put the king to death in his own house. 24 The common people killed all who had conspired against King Amon, and they made his son Josiah king in his place.”
King Amon’s servants assassinated him. Then, the common people killed the assassins.
Then we read that Josiah, Amon’s son, becomes king. He’s probably my all-time favorite king of Judah. We’ll talk about him tomorrow.
Jesus, it’s so easy to see sin in others. We can spot it so quickly and despise it in our hearts. Yet the same sins are much harder to see in ourselves, and we tend to justify them. In Your grace, Lord, give us the ability to see sin in our lives and hate it. In fact, help us Lord to kill it wherever we see it in our hearts. We want to enjoy You and pass on a lively faith to our descendants and all of those we come into contact with. We pray this in Jesus’ Name, Amen.
I hope today’s episode has helped you to understand and enjoy God’s Word so that you can apply it in the power of the Holy Spirit.
The “Enjoying the Bible” podcast is a ministry of the First Baptist Church in Polk City, Florida. Check us out at fbcpolkcity.com. See you tomorrow!