clouds over Steamboat Springs

Hezekiah trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before or after his time. [2 Kings 18:5 (NLT)]

“Every cloud has a silver lining!” says the wife to her warrior husband in one of Jim Unger’s Herman comics. Since he’s holding one sword in his hand and has another running right through his chest, she points out, “Now you’ve got two swords!” Indeed, we should accentuate the positive. Nevertheless, when we see clouds forming, in spite of the possibility of their having a silver lining, it’s wise to get out the umbrellas and prepare for a storm.

The twelfth king of Judah, King Hezekiah, was one of the few good ones. He removed pagan shrines throughout the land, instigated several civil reforms, restored daily worship at the Temple, reinstituted the Passover celebration, fortified Jerusalem’s walls, and made their water supply invulnerable to siege. When the Babylonian king sent an envoy bearing gifts to Hezekiah, the king proudly showed the delegation both his armory and all of the nation’s treasures. Perhaps Hezekiah saw a potential alliance and wanted to impress Babylon, a rising power in the east. Nevertheless, it was like the chicken taking the fox on a tour of the henhouse. Hezekiah’s boastful action led to Isaiah’s prophecy of Judah’s defeat by Babylon. The prophet told the king that none of Judah’s treasures would remain and that some of his sons would be taken away in exile to serve as eunuchs in the Babylonian court.

We’d expect Hezekiah’s reaction to such a devastating prophecy to be one of despair, if not repentance, sack cloth, fasting and ashes. Instead, Hezekiah chose to see the silver lining in the storm cloud hanging over his nation and family: Judah’s destruction wouldn’t take place during his lifetime! Perhaps, rather than pride, Hezekiah’s sin was that of self-centeredness. His concern was only for his legacy—the peace and prosperity of his reign rather than the future of the nation, his people, his family, and the continuation of David’s line. He was just happy that his reign was secure and he wouldn’t be alive to see the destruction of all that he’d built! It was that short-sightedness that led him to cozy up to the Babylonians and incur God’s displeasure and discipline in the first place!

While Hezekiah is known as the best of the Judean kings, his son Manasseh is known as the worst! Manasseh was woefully ill-prepared to continue his father’s reign and, as soon as Hezekiah died, the nation immediately returned to its idolatrous and sinful ways. Manasseh built altars to Baal, worshipped the stars, erected Asherah poles, defiled the Temple, sacrificed his own children, dabbled in sorcery, astrology and wizardry, cruelly executed those who opposed him, and is said to have been responsible for Isaiah’s death. I can’t help but wonder how Judah’s fate might have changed had Hezekiah been as concerned about the storm cloud rising in the future as he was about the silver lining of his present. Less than 150 years later, Isaiah’s prophecy was fulfilled when the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem, carried away all of its riches, and took the people of Judah into captivity.

Sometimes, the silver lining in a cloud just isn’t worth it! The wife in the comic saw two swords instead of a fatally injured man and Hezekiah saw a great legacy instead of Jerusalem’s destruction. Let us remember that it’s not enough for us to finish well; we want those who follow us to do so, too.

King Manasseh of Judah has done many detestable things. He is even more wicked than the Amorites, who lived in this land before Israel. He has caused the people of Judah to sin with his idols. So this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: I will bring such disaster on Jerusalem and Judah that the ears of those who hear about it will tingle with horror. 2 Kings 21:11-12 (NLT)]

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