Today’s reading: Isaiah 34-39, Psalm 82-83
Much of our reading for today closely parallels 2 Kings 18-20, which we read three weeks ago. The accounts of the reign of King Hezekiah in both these places as well as 2 Chronicles 29-32 are in agreement that, for the most part, he was a good leader in Judah. According to the Chronicler, he was responsible for restoring the temple and reinstituting the practice of Passover, bringing great joy to the people.
In today’s passage, we see Hezekiah’s faith in action in response to two different crises, one national and one personal. When he is faced with a threat from King Sennacherib of more powerful Assyria, he does not surrender or seek an alliance with some other nation. Instead, Hezekiah turns to the prophet Isaiah for consultation, which results in a time of earnest prayer on Judah’s behalf. Later in his life, he becomes ill and receives the news from Isaiah that he will soon die. Hezekiah again prays to God, this time for himself. In both cases, God brings deliverance.
Yet, near the end of his life, Hezekiah becomes complacent. His memory of God’s deliverance and his perseverance seem to fail him. He makes a critical error in judgment, giving ambassadors from the king of Babylon an all-access pass to view his kingdom. When Isaiah delivers the consequences for his mistake–that Babylon will soon cart off all that he has shown the visitors–Hezekiah seems unconcerned for his people, satisfied that it will not happen until after he has finished his own days in peace.
In the end, Hezekiah fails his people. Instead of once again leading from a place of deep faith, he settles for his own comfort, selling out those whose lives depend on him to a foreign power. His story is a reminder of the significant responsibility that comes with leadership. One of the great traits of a discerning leader is finishing well, knowing when it is time to pass the reigns to someone else.