Script for the June 9th episode of the “Enjoying the Bible” podcast.
Welcome to the June 9th 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 2 Chronicles 32-33. Hopefully, you’ve already spent time in God’s Word so let’s get started.
2 Chronicles 32
One of the age-old questions people have asked is why bad things come to those who seem to be doing the right things. For Christians, we often ask why bad things happen to those who are devoted to our God?
It is a question that continues to be asked because it is rooted in our disdain for injustice. The question assumes that it is unjust for bad things to happen to people who have not done anything to deserve those bad things.
Well, I’m glad that the Bible was written the way that it was! It is rooted in reality, not idealism. We get to read about people who struggled with the seeming injustice of bad things happening to them when they didn’t seem to do anything to deserve it. The book of Psalms is a great place to read the reflections of a man who struggled in this area.
In our Bible reading today, we come to one of these instances. Judah’s King Hezekiah was a really good king! He had a heart for the Lord and a desire to lead in such a way as to bless his people. And yet, bad things happened anyway.
2 Chronicles 32:1 (CSB): “After Hezekiah’s faithful deeds, King Sennacherib of Assyria came and entered Judah. He laid siege to the fortified cities and intended to break into them.”
Friend, pursuing greater degrees of godliness does not make us immune to difficulties. Instead, it enables us to have strength during those times. It helps us understand how we are to think and behave during those unenviable times. Further, it allows us to see who we are relying upon – ourselves, others, or the Lord.
One of the first things that King Hezekiah did when the Assyrian army surrounded him was to stop the water from flowing to the Assyrian army. He also quickly rebuilt part of the Jerusalem wall for further protection. These actions were no-brainers. They remind us that when we are in a crisis, there will probably be some things that we need to do immediately to secure our safety and those under our care while we trust in the Lord and pray about what to do next.
Then, we are reminded of a lesson that every leader needs to know. We are not merely responsible for the physical well-being of those under our care; we are also responsible for much of their emotional and spiritual well-being. It is a leader’s job to speak encouraging words to people and give them the basis for that confidence.
2 Chronicles 32:6-8 (CSB): “He set military commanders over the people and gathered the people in the square of the city gate. Then he encouraged them, saying, ‘Be strong and courageous! Don’t be afraid or discouraged before the king of Assyria or before the large army that is with him, for there are more with us than with him. He has only human strength, but we have the LORD our God to help us and to fight our battles.’ So the people relied on the words of King Hezekiah of Judah.”
Leaders need to speak peace into situations that could easily spiral into chaos. No one benefits, and many people can get hurt when a crowd begins to panic. So it is in the best interest of everyone for a strong leader to speak encouraging words, based on substance, to those under their care when things get scary.
We understand from verse 9 that King Sennacherib had also engaged with at least one other city, the city of Lachish. Lachish was a significant city in the region of Judah, and it was about 25 miles southwest of Jerusalem. So, Assyria’s army was massive, but it was split between at least two cities at one time.
Assyria was laying a siege around Jerusalem, which meant that they had stopped anything and anyone from going in or coming out of the city. Eventually, the food and water would run out.
But the problem for the Assyrians was that the longer the siege lasted, the more of a logistical nightmare it would be for them. They would need a steady supply of food and water, among other necessary things. The Assyrians hoped that the siege wouldn’t last too long. So, what did they do? They tried to demoralize the people of Jerusalem.
Sennacherib’s spokesman had a loud voice. He yelled up to the people watching from the top of the Jerusalem wall. He spoke on behalf of King Sennacherib of Assyria and tried to frighten the citizens with thoughts of the starvation that awaited them as the siege continued. He tried to place doubts in their mind about listening to King Hezekiah and relying upon their God.
The Assyrian spokesman recounted King Sennacherib’s military victories against other nations with other gods. He said that Israel and Israel’s God would be just like all of the other nations that had been defeated. He also said that King Hezekiah’s encouragement to find courage in God was unfounded.
2 Chronicles 32:15 (CSB): “So now, don’t let Hezekiah deceive you, and don’t let him mislead you like this. Don’t believe him, for no god of any nation or kingdom has been able to rescue his people from my power or the power of my predecessors. How much less will your God rescue you from my power!”
Letters were also written to mock the God of Judah and call into doubt His ability to save them. Once again, the logic was that all of the previous nations with gods had been destroyed. What made Jerusalem think they were any different?
2 Chronicles 32:18-19 (CSB): “Then they called out loudly in Hebrew to the people of Jerusalem, who were on the wall, to frighten and discourage them in order that he might capture the city. They spoke against the God of Jerusalem like they had spoken against the gods of the peoples of the earth, which were made by human hands.”
So, the Assyrians have come to defeat Jerusalem. Hezekiah is Judah’s leader and is trying to take measures to protect his people. He is also trying to encourage them. Yet, Sennacherib is pulling the tug-o-war rope on the other end, trying to defeat them.
Where did Hezekiah go in order to seek help? Did he try to pay off the Assyrians as other kings did? Did he try to hire another nation’s army to fight with the Assyrians like other kings might have done?
2 Kings 32:20-21 (CSB): “King Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz prayed about this and cried out to heaven, and the LORD sent an angel who annihilated every valiant warrior, leader, and commander in the camp of the king of Assyria. So the king of Assyria returned in disgrace to his land. He went to the temple of his god, and there some of his own children struck him down with the sword.”
As we reflect on Hezekiah’s actions, we observe that it was essentially a three-step process when tragedy struck. First, he did whatever he needed to do to protect those under his care and buy some time. Second, he found someone who could join him as he passionately prayed to the God of Heaven. Finally, he was prepared to do whatever God revealed to him, or merely sit back and watch the Lord work if that’s what the Lord desired.
God heard Isaiah’s and Hezekiah’s prayers. He gave them a victory over Assyria and a time of rest and peace followed. Other nations also observed the defeat of Assyria and decided not to mess with Hezekiah either.
But this is where it gets dangerous. Remember how we’ve talked about how God’s blessings can turn into a curse? God can bless us for obedience, and yet when we receive those blessings, we can become proud and self-confident. That’s what happened to Hezekiah.
We read in verse 24 that around this time, Hezekiah got sick and was getting closer to death. In Isaiah 38, we read that the prophet Isaiah came to him with a word from the Lord. He told Hezekiah to set his house in order because he was going to die. But then we read that Hezekiah, while on his bed, turned his face to the wall, wept, and prayed. So, the Lord sent Isaiah back to inform the king that the Lord had graciously given him 15 more years of life.
So how did Hezekiah respond when the Lord listened to his prayer and defeated the Assyrian army for him? And miraculously brought him back to health when he was close to death? And made the sundial go backward when Hezekiah looked for a sign that he would be healed?
2 Chronicles 32:25 (CSB): “However, because his heart was proud, Hezekiah didn’t respond according to the benefit that had come to him. So there was wrath on him, Judah, and Jerusalem. Then Hezekiah humbled himself for the pride of his heart—he and the inhabitants of Jerusalem—so the LORD’s wrath didn’t come on them during Hezekiah’s lifetime.”
As I have said in a previous podcast, given the conditions of our hearts, we should ask the Lord to bless us – just not too much.
In verses 27-30, we read a short list of Hezekiah’s ambitious projects. He pursued the Lord and led in many projects for the blessing of his people. He just needed to keep his pride and feelings of self-sufficiency in check. He needed to remember that he desperately needed the Lord every moment of every day.
But he would fall away from the Lord once again.
2 Chronicles 32:31 (CSB): “When the ambassadors of Babylon’s rulers were sent to him to inquire about the miraculous sign that happened in the land, God left him to test him and discover what was in his heart.”
Babylon, a lesser distant power, sent ambassadors to Judah to visit Hezekiah. They pretended to care about his illness and recovery. The Lord left Hezekiah alone to see what he would do. Would he humbly seek the Lord’s guidance in the matter? Or would he pridefully show off God’s blessings upon him?
We know from Isaiah 39 that King Hezekiah showed them everything in the Temple and in his palace. It seems that he was showing off the splendor of his kingdom. What is the heart attitude of someone who shows off? Pride. Hezekiah was at it again!
As 2 Chronicles 32 comes to an end, we read that his story is recounted in 2 Kings and Isaiah. He was generally a good king who led in a time of spiritual renewal. But he messed up in the latter half of his life, became proud, and made some major mistakes. Then he died and his son, Manasseh, became king in his place.
2 Chronicles 33
King Hezekiah’s reign was generally good. But now, his son would reign over Judah, and it would be a horrible time in Judah’s history.
2 Chronicles 33:1-2 (CSB): “Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king, and he reigned fifty-five years in Jerusalem. 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.
What sort of wicked things did Manasseh do as he ruled Judah? According to verses 3-6, he rebuilt the pagan places of worship that his father had destroyed and rebuilt the altars of Baal. He made Asherah poles and worshipped them. He built pagan altars and put them in the Temple of God. He built altars to worship the stars. He sacrificed his own children to pagan gods in the fire in Ben Hinnom Valley. And he engaged in demonic activity, things like witchcraft, divination, and sorcery, and he consulted mediums and spiritists.
2 Chronicles 33:6 (CSB): “… He did a huge amount of evil in the LORD’s sight, angering him.”
One of the things we’ve learned as we have read about the kings of Israel and Judah is that the people in the kingdom tended to mimic the spiritual life of their leader. If he followed the Lord, they tended to do that. If he was wicked, they tended to become wicked as well. That’s why we aren’t surprised to read that some of the people who had experienced the times of spiritual renewal and revival under King Hezekiah were now jumping headfirst into wickedness.
2 Chronicles 33:9 (CSB): “So Manasseh caused Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to stray so that they did worse evil than the nations the LORD had destroyed before the Israelites.”
One of the wonderful things about our God is that He has a heart of compassion. Before His patience wears out and He sends judgment upon a rebellious people, he often calls for repentance. He sends someone (or many people) to speak the truth and to call for brokenness and turning from sin. But, honestly, people who are enjoying their sin don’t like the truth. Rather than give up their sin, they get rid of the messenger.
So after the Lord warned Manasseh and the people, and they didn’t respond appropriately, he brought the army of Assyria against them. If Manasseh didn’t repent, the Lord would bring judgment. These were the natural events as the Assyrians wanted to continue world domination. But the Lord used them to bring judgment.
2 Chronicles 33:12-13 (CSB): “When he was in distress, he sought the favor of the LORD his God and earnestly humbled himself before the God of his ancestors. He prayed to him, and the LORD was receptive to his prayer. He granted his request and brought him back to Jerusalem, to his kingdom. So Manasseh came to know that the LORD is God.”
This illustrates another spiritual principle. When the pain of holding onto our sin is more painful than repenting and changing, that’s when we typically change. Manasseh wanted the judgment to stop. The Lord enabled him to see how wicked he was. So, he repented and changed.
Friend, we repeatedly see in Scripture how God responds graciously to the one who repents. It seems so obvious that God has a soft spot in His heart for those who repent.
Manasseh was a different man when he got back to Jerusalem. He started off by taking measures to protect the city. And then he worked to renew the worship of God. He got rid of the idols and altars he had set up. He then called the people to worship the Lord. He did a lot of harm during his reign, but at least he changed and desired to finish well.
Manasseh eventually stepped through death’s door and his son, Amon, became king. And as he begins to reign, we realize that while it is great to finish well, the unfortunate part about that is that our children have typically grown up and left home by the time we change. So they generally remain unaffected. That is why it is so important to get things right when our children are at home. Just listen to what kind of man Amon was.
2 Chronicles 33:21-23 (CSB): “Amon was twenty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned two years in Jerusalem. He did what was evil in the LORD’s sight, just as his father Manasseh had done. Amon sacrificed to all the carved images that his father Manasseh had made, and he served them. But he did not humble himself before the LORD like his father Manasseh humbled himself; instead, Amon increased his guilt.”
Amon did all the evil that his father, Manasseh, had done. Yet, the one difference is that Amon never repented. It’s possible that he never repented because he never experienced judgment as Manasseh did.
Friend, God’s discipline is good if it brings about repentance. This is a hard truth for us when we see a loved one or friend experiencing what appears to be judgment for their actions. Sometimes (not always), the worst thing we can do for them is to step in to diminish or alleviate the judgment. As painful as they are, God’s discipline and judgment can often motivate us to make the necessary changes to repent, reject our sin, and follow Him.
Amon’s servants assassinated him at the end of two years of unrepentant wickedness. Then, the common people killed the servants who assassinated their king and made Amon’s son, Josiah, the next king. He’s one of the really good guys, and I can’t wait to talk about him tomorrow.
Lord Jesus, we are grateful that You are a forgiving God. We are thankful that You have a soft spot in Your heart for people who repent, who turn from sin and turn to You. But, Lord, we also realize that the longer we wait to make things right, the greater the odds that we will negatively impact others, maybe even our kids and grandkids. So help us, Lord, to chase after You and grow in godliness now, not later, so that we can be a source of blessing to others and not a reason that they are far from You. 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.
If looking over the script for this podcast would be beneficial to you, hop on over to my website at mattsmusings.net. I will provide a link in this episode’s show notes.
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!