by Mike Ratliff
This same Hezekiah closed the upper outlet of the waters of Gihon and directed them down to the west side of the city of David. And Hezekiah prospered in all his works. And so in the matter of the envoys of the princes of Babylon, who had been sent to him to inquire about the sign that had been done in the land, God left him to himself, in order to test him and to know all that was in his heart. (2 Chronicles 32:30-31 ESV)
I doubt if any professing Christian who is a genuine child of God has not come to that sobering and often devastating realization in which God has taken His hand away just enough so that decisions are made and actions are taken apart from His wise counsel. The consequences of our going it alone are humbling to say the least. God tests us in these circumstances to show us what is really in our hearts. We are placed in circumstances in which the wise and Christian thing to do would be to seek God’s face and move only as He leads, but if we are honest we must confess that in these circumstances our self-righteousness comes to the fore or we operate from pride or instead of mortifying our sin, we indulge our flesh. These are not marks of the unregenerate my brethren, but of the children of God. I am convinced that God uses these things to show us what we are really made of and, therefore, we are humbled and become more usable in the Kingdom.
Hezekiah was one of the good kings of Judah. Unfortunately, he was also the father of Manasseh, the very worst king of Judah. At the time of the Assyrian invasion of Judah, Hezekiah became ill and was told by God that he was going to die. However, he humbled himself to God and prayed to be healed. God granted him another 15 years. It was during these last 15 years of his reign that he begat Manasseh. Also, when he recovered from the illness Merdach-baladan, the king of Babylon sent envoys to comfort him. During this period, Babylon was ruled by the Assyrians, but the Babylonians hated them. During Sennacherib’s reign in Nineveh, Babylon revolted. Sennacherib laid siege to Babylon and eventfully overthrew it. He had the leaders of the revolt skinned alive in front of him. He destroyed the city. During the reign of Esarhaddon, Sennacherib’s son, Babylon was rebuilt, but the Babylonians hated the Assyrians. Merdach-baladan sent envoys to Hezekiah because he had successfully withstood the siege of Sennacherib. Just a few years after this, the Babylonians united with the Medes to overthrow Nineveh. The destruction of that great city was so extensive that archeologists had a very difficult time locating it when they began to hunt for it to dig up its history.
The writer of 2 Chronicles referred in the passage above to the envoys set to Hezekiah from Babylon. To them, an enemy of the Assyrians was their friend. However, Hezekiah, now recovered from his illness, blundered right through this encounter with little or no discernment. Why? God had left him to himself in order to test him. Hezekiah was very wealthy and had seemingly withstood the mightiest army in the world. However, as we know. It was God who defeated Sennacherib’s army, not Hezekiah. In any case, Hezekiah was growing inwardly great. Pride was taking over his heart. He was priding himself so much upon the favor of God that self-righteousness crept in. This was deadly my brethren because it is through self-righteousness ascending that we lose our carnal security. We lose the ability to say no to the flesh when we are driven by self-righteousness. It is the grace of God operating in our hearts that enables us to say no to our flesh, to kill the sin there. However, when God leaves us to ourselves as He did with Hezekiah, it is as if this moderating grace is withdrawn.
Let us not look down on Hezekiah my brethren. He blew it with the Babylonians (2 Kings 20:12-19). He did not seek the Lord and His wisdom before receiving them and giving them the grand tour of his kingdom. The leaving of Hezekiah alone by God is quite enough to account for this foolish behavior. If God takes His grace away from any of us for a season, there is enough of sin in our hearts to make us the worst of sinners. If God did not extend His persevering Grace to each of us, it would not take very long at all for us to cool down like Laodicea into lukewarmness. Those of us who are so sound in our faith would turn white with the leprosy of false doctrine without God working in our hearts, leading us down the right paths, and drawing us into obedience and service. This is true because our consistency in our walks is by His grace, not by our abilities or by our determination. Without God preserving us and growing us we would eventually become consumed with evil passion.
We must never forget my brethren that we are to Christ as the Moon is to the Sun. We borrow and reflect Christ’s light just as the Moon reflects the Sun’s light. When we are full in God’s Grace we shine brightly, but we are like the dark side of the Moon when God withdraws Himself from us.
What are we to do my brethren? We pray for God to not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. We cry “Abba Father!” “Oh Lord, take not thy Holy Spirit from us!” Please do not withdraw Your indwelling grace from us Oh Lord! We must never forget that we are simply the branches while our Lord is the Vine. The Father is the Vinedresser. He is the one who keeps it, waters it, and sustains it all. Let us cry to Him, “Oh Lord, keep us attached to the Vine! Keep us in the valley so we will not murmur against your humbling hand.” It is this humbling He uses to grow us, but without His sustaining grace, we could not bear it.
On the other hand, He also takes us to the heights. He takes us upon the mountains. We must ask Him to keep us firmly in His grace here as well for we can become overcome with youthful passions and conceit here and then pride will creep in and the cycle continues. Hezekiah was elevated highly, but God left him alone to see what he was made of. Do you suppose that many of the Christian leaders in our time who, now that they have become older and have made horrible errors, have stumbled due to God leaving them alone for a season to see what they are made of? We must all ask God to sustain us and keep us humble. We must ask Him to not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Oh Lord, keep us from becoming conceited in our own wisdom! Please sustain us and keep us when we come to die, lest, at the very last, we should deny You! Keep us Lord in all you would have us do. Please do not take your sustaining grace from us!
Soli Deo Gloria!