Thought for the Week - 29th JulyPastor Gareth Watkins
2 Kings 18: 1-8
Now it came to pass in the third year of Hoshea the son of Elah,
king of Israel, that Hezekiah the son of Ahaz, king of Judah, began to reign.
He was twenty-five years old when he became king,
and he reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem.
His mother’s name was Abi the daughter of Zechariah.
And he did what was right in the sight of the Lord,
according to all that his father David had done.
He removed the high places and broke the sacred pillars,
cut down the wooden image and broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made;
for until those days the children of Israel burned incense to it, and called it Nehushtan.
He trusted in the Lord God of Israel,
so that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah,
nor who were before him.
For he held fast to the Lord; he did not depart from following Him,
but kept His commandments, which the Lord had commanded Moses.
The Lord was with him; he prospered wherever he went.
And he rebelled against the king of Assyria and did not serve him.
He subdued the Philistines, as far as Gaza and its territory,
from watchtower to fortified city.
I typed into Google “who wants a good life” and “what is a good life?”. I found all kinds of answers coming up, with all sorts of organisations offering lists of what things make a good life. Most of us want happiness, freedom, stability, prosperity, and a life where things goes well. The bible actually shows us an example in King Hezekiah of how this is achieved.
As a background to the story, the king of Assyria wanted to invade. The Assyrians surrounded the city of Jerusalem, who found themselves without water. Hezekiah built a tunnel deep underneath the city, which produced fresh water. King Hezekiah altered the decline of Judah. The disobedient people of northern Israel got carried off by the king of Assyria into captivity. While the Assyrians didn’t leave the people of Judah alone, they hung on to God. Most of the kings at the time did evil under God, but Hezekiah decided to do things differently.
What brought this man a good and prosperous life, and a life that was connected with God rather than disconnected? We see in the verses above how Hezekiah chose to live his life as the King of Judah.
When he became king, he did what was right in the sight of God. We’re fortunate in this nation that we have a Queen who attempts to do right in the sight of God. He removed the high places, such as making their children walk through fire, drum gods and other occult practices. The kings of Judah became kings but never brought down the power of the occult in the land. Hezekiah does what is right in God’s eyes and then goes one step further – he breaks down the high places and the sacred pillars, which in those days were used for occultist practices.
In these days, what would a king do that would break these powers like Hezekiah? He’d maybe get rid of centres of occult and ungodly influence in order to cleanse the country. He’d remove the centres of pagan worship, and the hubs of dark spiritual work.
Hezekiah trusted in God. He didn’t place his trust in the people around him, like the other rulers and learned people. He trusted in God. He held fast to the Lord and didn’t depart from following Him. He resisted the temptation to follow other people’s advice and the politics of the day.
Hezekiah fought his enemies. He could’ve rolled over and made peace. But he subdued the Philistines, who were enemies of God.
The Lord was with Hezekiah and he prospered wherever he went. There is our example of how to live a good, and fruitful life.
From the time Hezekiah starts, at the age of 25, he set his standards about what he would do by God’s standards. He believed in God and he started doing right in the sight of God, no matter what else went on. He must have created all kind of upset and drama in the country, removing the high places etc., but he knew he had to put those things right. He did what was right in the sight of the Lord. He smashed up the bronze serpent pole that Moses was made, as they had turned what was Godly into something that was not.
He trusted God and kept His commandments. He fought the enemies of God, and God prospered him as a result.
Is it an accident that God blessed him? No. It’s almost a chemical equation: if we do X and Y the outcome is Z. People today want the outcome but they don’t want God. That is the sad part of Christian life. Our testimonies show that when people put their heart and trust in God, the things they can’t do, God Himself has to do. God is faithful time and time again when people trust in Him.
That trusting in God ebbs and flows. People go through difficult times, upsetting times, pressured times, and times when things are hard. But Hezekiah could read his own self-help book! He knew the principles he had to follow. The book would ultimately say that the results are belonging to God and not him. Hezekiah couldn’t bring about the results. When God healed him and added 15 years to his life, he couldn’t do that. He couldn’t get an angel to come to destroy 185,000 soldiers. He couldn’t fight off the kings of Assyria. He couldn’t control the evil and wickedness that King Ahab and Jezebel had flooded the country with.
What he could do was trust in God. What Hezekiah could do, was hold fast to the Lord and keep His commandments even though everything around him was going a bit wild.
I can’t imagine being Hezekiah without experiencing terrible days where he felt couldn’t cope. But he proved – 3,000 years ago – that you can have a full and abundant life. He is recorded in the bible as an example of Godly living and a king like no other. He’s recorded as such.
Do these principles that Hezekiah hung on to, work today? That if we trust in God, hang onto God and follow His commandments that it will bring a prosperous and successful life? Yes, yes, yes! The outcome will be the same as in those days. The principles of eternity don’t change. God wants us to have a relationship with Him that doesn’t change. He wants us to love Him will all our heart, soul and mind.
My own testimony shows that these principles still work.
When I was 16 I hardly went to school. I didn’t follow God properly and had little faith. I drank a lot and left with one GCE instead of eight. Where would that take me? Not very far. I left school and got a job as an apprentice in a factory. Where would that take me? Again, not very far.
By the second year of working in the factory, I started to find faith in God. I was holding on to certain promises of God. That year, I was made Apprentice of the year. Isn’t that strange? In the third year, I won the Industrial Cup. In the fourth year, I was one of five apprentices out of all of them (thirty a year) to go onto higher education. The twenty year old me wasn’t much different to the sixteen year old me in some ways, the difference was that I had a faith in God. That faith in God allowed Him to come in and change things from the inside out. It allowed the blessings of God to come in bring about a success, prosperity, and sense of wellbeing in a place where wasn’t any. The successes weren’t down to my natural abilities but because of God. Hezekiah knew these things.
By twenty one I had finished by apprenticeship, had no job and was getting married. I had no money, no career, no house and no direction. We had nothing but we trusted in God. They decided out of the blue to give Apprentices redundancy money! Apprentices don’t get redundancy payments! Trusting in God, suddenly we had a bit of money. I didn’t have to go on the dole and a new door opened. I could lease a shop.
The shop was doing very well until Tesco started up. They put on buses to collect my customers from their homes and take them to their supermarket. But we trusted God. We refused to open seven days a week, and resisted the temptation to open on a Sunday. We trusted in God. Helen went for a job as a trainee nurse and I started in Insurance sales. The contract said I had to be twenty five. I was twenty one. But the man gave me the job. That wasn’t my natural ability. That was God opening a door. These doors opened to Hezekiah.
Within three months I was the top recruiter in the whole of the UK. They sent me on a holiday to a five star hotel. God’s hand was on it. God’s hand was blessing us in the trust that we’d put on Him and the commitments we’d put to Him. All of a sudden, I went from not being able to get a £5,000 mortgage to buying a brand new bungalow. A phone call came out of the blue from a man I had never met and still don’t know, to get a mortgage. It wasn’t my natural ability. It’s down to God, who blesses those who trust in Him.
Then I was called to the ministry. I went to the Presbyterian Church, but they closed the door on me several times. The same call came when I moved to Cornwall. I went to the Methodists, who didn’t like what I stood for, with my talk of being saved, born again and tithing. But I was allowed to become part of their preaching circuit. We moved back to Wales, with the call to the Ministry still upon me. I was contacted by Mr Black who asked me to start a church in Wales. There was no money, we’d have to start on our own, we’d have some support but basically it was up to us and God. Twenty two years on we are prospering. We are prospering because of what God has put inside it. We are holding fast to God, like Hezekiah had to hold fast to God.
It’s everything to do with God supporting a life along the passage that God has for Him. Hezekiah knew those things. He was due to be that type of king, and God supported in him being that sort of king. God has supported us along this walk He has for us.
Helen and I had children. God has kept our family together. Now we have grandchildren. Again this is God keeping His family together, and the blessings being contained within that family. Hezekiah knew about these things. He wasn’t wiped off the face of the earth, he wasn’t carried off in captivity and he wasn’t blotted out.
In the verses above, we read that Hezekiah did what was right in the sight of God, he removed the high places and broke the sacred pillars. Was that easy to do? Things that were there from the time of Moses and made by Moses. That would’ve been hard. These would’ve been family traditions, things that were acceptable in sight of everyone but were wrong in the sight of God. Hezekiah knew there was a detrimental effect in the nation because of them.
Do you have things in your life that you know are not right? Things that will cause problems before God because of what they mean? We can choose to either let them carry on or quietly sort them out.
For example we used to have a lovely, dark wood, Chinese ornament. Helen and I felt there was something wrong with it, almost occultist. Do we give that thing that we feel is evil away? Do we smash it up and get rid of it? Or do we keep it, for it to become a family heirloom in years to come? We knew it had to go. We had to be shown that.
Hezekiah did the same thing. He saw something in nation that wasn’t good, and he got rid of it.
We read “for he held fast to the Lord”. Hezekiah must have lots of trouble in his life. We have trouble in our lives. Do we hold fast to God during those troubles, or do we find our own way through it? Do we do whatever the easiest thing to do? No. We trust in Him and look to Him for the solution. In those times of trouble, hold on fast to God and don’t look for the easiest way out.
Hezekiah subdued the Philistines. Do we fight those who would fight God? We live in an atheistic culture, in our schools, education, workplaces, and television. Do we spiritually, physically, or verbally come up against these people or do we leave it lie? We choose our battles. We don’t roll over and die, but we choose the battles we want to fight. We can stand up and say what we believe.
The Lord was with Hezekiah. Do you find the Lord is with you in your workplace, in school, when you’re about your daily affairs? Do you know a sense of God? That is one of the biggest things you can possibly have. To know that God is with you is priceless. In my life that I described above, I know that God has always been with me.
If you’re having trouble doing what is right in the sight of God, bring it to Him in prayer.
If you’re suffering sinful situations, where things are troubling you because of something you can get free from, bring it to Him in prayer.
If you’re surrounded by enemies, if you need the courage to face them, bring it to Him in prayer.
If you’re lacking or feeling worthless, bring it to Him in prayer.
God means us to be prosperous. God means us to come through difficult times. God means us to stand when we feel like falling. God means us to be victorious. Because our lives belong to Him.