Thoughts to Ponder: Introduction
Intro: Setting the Scene
Q1 – God’s prophets clearly and loudly warned the Israelites they would be taken into Babylonian captivity. What could the people and their kings have done to prevent or delay this event from occurring?
A1 – When Moses first climbed Mount Sinai after God delivered the Israelites out of Egypt, God told them that if they would obey Him and keep His commandments, they would be His own “special treasure from among all the peoples on earth” (Exodus 19:5 NLT). The first of the ten commandments God gave to Moses was that they were not to have any other god but Him, and the second was that they must not make idols and worship them (Exodus 20 NLT). Clearly, God wanted the obedience and sole devotion of His people!
However, from the time of their deliverance on, the Israelites struggled with obeying God. They would declare their devotion and then go astray, building their own idols and images to worship or worshipping the pagan gods of other peoples. This cycle repeated itself frequently, with the kings later setting the spiritual tone for the nation.
On various occasions, God would punish the Israelites when they strayed. Yet, when they turned from their sins and once again pledged their love and obedience to God, God would cease their punishment. Recall how Moses interceded and begged God multiple times not to destroy them (in Deuteronomy 9, Moses gives a recap of these happenings). Later, in the time of the kings, some were faithful to God and sought to bring the people back to obedience, but other kings led the people astray.
After years of dealing with the Israelites’ on-again, off-again devotion, God reached the end of His patience. He declared they would go into Babylonian captivity as punishment. Yet, He gave ample advance warning, allowing them plenty of time to repent and turn back to Him—if they had chosen to do so. Considering the way he responded to Hezekiah (see next question), He would likely have shown mercy to the Israelites if they had turned their sole devotion back to Him.
Q2 – What did King Hezekiah do to change God’s mind when he learned he was to die? (II Kings 20, Isaiah 38) What example does this provide for God’s people today?
A2 – Hezekiah evidently had a boil that had become infected (II Kings 20:7). When the prophet Isaiah came to Hezekiah and relayed God’s message that he would soon die, Hezekiah’s first response was to turn his face to the wall and pray to God—and then he wept bitterly. Here he was about to die while still in the prime of his life (about 39 years old at the time), even though he had served God faithfully (II Kings 18:5-7).
In his prayer, Hezekiah reminded God of his wholehearted devotion to Him and how he had done what was right before God. Almost immediately, God responded. Isaiah had hardly left the king’s presence before God sent him back to tell Hezekiah his life would be extended by fifteen years.
Hezekiah had lived his life in devotion to God, so he didn’t need to turn from evil and from serving false gods as had often been the case with other kings. Instead, all he had to do was to talk with God. In reminding God of his faithfulness, he was essentially begging for his life. In short, Hezekiah asked.
God likes for his children to talk to Him, and prayer is how we do that. God doesn’t always say “yes” to our requests, just as earthly parents don’t always say “yes” to their children. Regardless of what His response may be, God listened to His children back then, and He listens to them now. How many blessings does He have waiting to bestow, if only His children would ask!
Q3 – Hezekiah was a good king (II Kings 18:1-8), yet he was so human. After God granted him an extension on his life, what was his response when he learned the wealth of his kingdom, as well as his family members, would be carried to Babylon? (II Kings 20:16-19)
A3 – He seems rather unfeeling toward the fate of his descendants and nation after learning that the years of Babylonian captivity would occur after he was dead and gone. It was not going to affect him personally, so he essentially said, “Oh well.” There would be peace and security during his lifetime, and that was what mattered to him. His descendants would just have to deal with it.