This is what Hezekiah did throughout Judah, doing what was good and right and faithful before the Lord his God. In everything that he undertook in the service of God’s temple and in obedience to the law and the commands, he sought his God and worked wholeheartedly. And so he prospered. 2 Chronicles 31:20-21.
The stories of the divided kingdom in the Old Testament include a long list of different rulers, all evaluated on a single criteria. They aren’t judged on whether they won battles. They aren’t evaluated on the prosperity of the kingdom. They aren’t judged on their intelligence or wisdom or good looks or popularity. In other words, they aren’t judged on any of the same bases on which we evaluate our government officials today. They are evaluated on one simple axis, whether they obeyed the commands of God.
Our text for today recounts the story of the godly king, Hezekiah. Ahaz, Hezekiah’s father, had failed on that critical axis. He had desecrated the temple of God and erected pagan alters. Hezekiah, on the other hand, restored the temple, destroyed the alters, and celebrated the Passover. On the one basis that seems to count in the Old Testament history he was a great success.
The text, however, also recounts how Hezekiah’s faithfulness translated into the success of the kingdom. Under Hezekiah’s leadership, the land became rich from the tribute of others. The Lord fought Hezekiah’s battles for him and delivered Judah from the Assyrians. Hezekiah was honored by his own people, even after his death.
It might be tempting to interpret the story of Hezekiah as a business lesson – if you are obedient to God, you will prosper. There may definitely be some overlap between practicing godly virtues and business success. The people with whom we do business appreciate being treated honestly and experiencing our genuine concern. It is entirely possible to do well by doing good.
But exactly how far we can extrapolate this lesson is problematic. If we think the purpose of obeying the rules of God is to make us rich in this world, we don’t really understand the lessons of cross.
It might be safer to interpret the story of Hezekiah as a brave king who bucked the system and was loved by God. He could easily have followed in his father’s footsteps but instead he took the entire nation on a 180 degree turn. It looks like he reversed every policy his father had put in place and enacted the opposite. Let’s view him as a king who was brave, devoted, and faithful. His reward for that faithfulness was his right relationship with God. Everything else was just gravy. Chapter 32 tells the story of pride entering Hezekiah’s life and then of his repentance. How much would you guess Hezekiah would have traded to get God back when He had left him during that time of sin? I think I would have traded every penny.