May 14

Hezekiah, Part 2

II Kings 18:4-5 [Hezekiah] 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.

How did Hezekiah undo what his earthly, natural father Ahaz had done? It wasn’t just that Hezekiah had a different spirit, patterning himself after his ancestor King David. God actually used Hezekiah to reverse the sins of his nation.

Numbers 21 tells the story of God’s people complaining and the Lord responding by sending venomous snakes. When Moses prayed for the people, the Lord told him to make a bronze snake and put it on a pole. Whenever anyone looked to it, they would live. Obviously, this is a foreshadowing of Christ. But over time, it had become an idol, and the people “burned incense to it” and gave it a Hebrew name that sounded like both bronze and serpent. What began as good and holy and directly from God had turned into a kind of false god.

What is in your family line or history, or even in the history of your friends and colleagues, that began well, but has turned into an unhealthy habit? Perhaps something began as a great opportunity for fellowship, but has now degenerated into something you “just do.” Is there a family tradition that worked well last generation (e.g., dinner at Mom’s every Sunday) that is preventing the Lord from building something new and spiritually fresh? Is a sense of guilt preventing you from breaking away from an old custom or ritual when you know deep down that there is no more life left in it?

Hezekiah was ruthless in destroying the bronze serpent, and was ruthlessly pleasing to God. He also blessed God’s people immensely by demolishing a stumbling block that had led many to sin. Hezekiah had the authority to do that on his own. He was king, and responsible for either keeping the serpent in place or destroying it. He didn’t need to confer with anyone else—unlike us.

For most of us, moving away from old and lifeless traditions involves other people, and we are called to relate to them in love and grace. Few things are as idolatrous as the bronze serpent had become, of course. But when things that even began in God no longer have the life of God in them, we need to seek the Lord for His wisdom in how to move away from them. Some we simply have to drop, without discussion. Others involve people we need to dialogue with, always with love and grace. But if we want to break away from the spirit of Ahaz and move in the spirit of David, we need to have the desire to please the Lord as our greatest motivation.

Prayer: Lord, I don’t want to keep participating in any spiritually lifeless activities. If there are traditions and habits I’ve received that are no longer Your portion for me, please show me. And grant me the grace and wisdom to move away from them in Your righteousness and love.

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