Sunday, February 20, 2011

Hezekiah's Revival

The Colonel has been praying, more and more fervently of late, for spiritual revival; in his nation, in his church, and in his own heart.  Bible study in 2nd Kings this Sunday morning was on topic and on target.

In the 18th Chapter of 2nd Kings, the writer introduces us to Hezekiah, king of the Southern Kingdom of Judah, and in verse 3 tells us that "he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, just as...David had done."  Because the vast majority of the Hebrew kings that followed David and preceded Hezekiah turned farther and farther away from God, it seems that Hezekiah must have experienced a personal revival that allowed him to lead a national revival.

We can learn three things about revival from Hezekiah's experience as king.  

First, revival requires us to challenge old "religious" practices.  In Verse 4, the writer says simply that in addition to tearing down all of the idols of other religions that had proliferated throughout Judah and pulled the people away from the commandments of God, Hezekiah "broke into pieces the bronze snake that Moses had made."   

When the Hebrew people wandering in the wilderness had been beset by deadly poisonous snakes, God had instructed Moses to lift up a bronze snake on a pole so that the people bitten by a snake might look upon it and be saved.  The Hebrew people had kept the bronze serpent icon for generations and had begun to incorporate it in religious ceremonies, burning incense to it like any of the other idols representing other gods.  They had fallen into the habit of a "religious" practice that incorporated a cherished icon, but in their tradition-following had lost sight of God, faith in Whom was their salvation, not the icon.  God had not intended them to worship the bronze serpent.  He had intended for them to exercise faith, instead of attempting to remedy the snake bite by their own actions.  Hezekiah saw that this traditional religious practice was no longer about faith.  We all have traditional religious practices that allow us to put a "check in the box" and which shortstop our worship and communion with God.  

Second, revival allows us to conquer old adversaries.  Verses 7 and 8 tell us that, "...the Lord was with [Hezekiah]; he was successful in whatever he undertook," and that he "...defeated the Philistines as far as Gaza..."   From the time the Hebrew people entered Canaan, the Philistines, whose territory stretched along the Mediterranean coast, were a mortal enemy.  After the passing of Solomon, whose father David had slain the great Philistine warrior, Goliath, the Philistines had begun to retake lost territory and to make bolder and bolder incursions into Israel and Judah.  Like sin in our lives, the Philistines crowded in on the Israelites and their oppression grew greater and greater.  Hezekiah's Revival turned that tide.  Spiritual revival reconnects us with the unconquerable power of God, and His power alone gives victory over the old adversaries--sin--in our lives.

Third, revival awakens Satan; but God is greater.  While Hezekiah was leading Judah in revival, the corrupt and ungodly king of the northern kingdom of Israel continued to lead his people further and further away from God's commandments.  The ascendant Assyrian Empire to the northeast overran Israel and carried away the vast majority of the people to exile in the far eastern territories of Assyria.  When the Assyrian king, Sennacherib, advanced on Judah and demanded the surrender of Jerusalem, Hezekiah consulted God's prophet, Isaiah.  Through Isaiah, God promised Hezekiah that if he would refuse Sennacherib and lean on God instead, then the Assyrian threat against Judah would evaporate. 

Understand Hezekiah's strategic military position:  The Assyrian Empire was the dominant military force in the region at the time, employing technologically advanced armament and highly evolved tactics and operational art.  Judah was no match for Assyria.  Sennacherib held every advantage, but one.  Verse 6 tells us that Hezekiah "...held fast to the Lord."  The Assyrian threat to Jerusalem ended just as God through Isaiah had foretold--Sennacherib returned to his capitol after a signifcant portion of his army was destroyed by what God's word tells us was "the angel of the Lord" (2 Kings 19:35) and was assassinated by a couple of his subordinates. 

When we fix our eyes on God's will in our lives and recommit to His leadership, our faith can be tested by what seems insurmountable odds.  When Hezekiah was faced with the, to-this-point undefeated, Assyrian war machine and turned to God for help, Isaiah prophesied that "By your messengers you have heaped insults on the Lord.." (2 Kings 19:23).  Sennacherib's messengers had relayed a scornful threat, declaring that Judah's God was no greater than all of the gods of all of the other nations that had fallen quickly to the Assyria sword.  God was insulted.

Don't know about you, but when his God is insulted, the Colonel gets well out of the line of fire.                
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