READ: 2 Chronicles 31-33, Psalm 137, Luke 4, 1 Peter 4
KNOWING WHEN TO DIE
Hezekiah started off as a humble king. He sought God with all his heart and as a result prospered (2 Chron. 31:21). Faced with overwhelming odds, he joins with Isaiah to cry and pray (32:20) and the Lord fights for him against “the arm of flesh” (v. 8). As a result the Lord “guided on every side…and gave them rest” (v. 22). Unfortunately, Hezekiah gets sick, a sickness that is terminal. He begs the Lord for more time and God answers his prayer. Fifteen years are granted to Hezekiah, years in which his son Manasseh was born. Tragically, somewhere in those fifteen years Hezekiah loses his humility and we are told “his heart was lifted up; therefore wrath was looming over him and over Judah and Jerusalem” (v. 25). Evidently God “withdrew from him, in order to test him, that He might know all that was in his heart” (v. 31). It is a shame Hezekiah did not know when to die. His extended years not only brought Manasseh into the world, who “seduced the people to do more evil than the nations” (33:9), but they also saw Hezekiah fall into sin and put his followers at risk of the wrath of God. Three sobering applications stand out from Hezekiah’s later life.
You can live too long. Much damage is done by those who don’t recognize their time to step away from leadership. We hold on to power and position much longer than God intends for us. How life-giving it is when leaders recognize their time to step down, release the reigns of authority, and pass the baton graciously to others. Those who stay too long give birth to “children” who introduce all kinds of evil.
Humility lost is wrath incurred. Hezekiah was wondrously used when he thought little of himself. He gave in to the common temptation to think God’s employment of him made him special. Most concerning, his pride subjected him (and his followers!) to the wrath of God. I have more sympathy for those who start evil and repent at the end (Manasseh) and more sadness for those who start well, live well, then stumble at the finish. Something about lost humility at the end of blessing seems to irritate God so much that His punishment for the offense is extreme. We derive from this the maximum value God places on sustained humility. It is precious to Him.
God withdraws to test us. God (in His omniscience) certainly knows what is in our heart. His withdrawal is intended as a mercy: it lets us see what is in our own heart. God’s withdrawal (removing of blessing, protection, anointing) is a mercy and an invitation. His intention is that shock and the vileness of our own heart will lead us once again to humble ourselves and depend on Him.
Physical death is actually an awakening to what we have lived for. If we have lived for ourselves, we will awaken to judgment. If we have lived for Jesus (by humbly living for others), we will awaken to reward. God help us know when to die. God help us awake to what is horrific to God in us. God help us die humble.