Hezekiah’s Contempt for the Next Generation (2 Kings 20)
King Hezekiah of Judah presents another example of the arrogance of the kings. The passage begins with Hezekiah sick to the point of death. He begs God to recover, and God, by the word of the prophet Isaiah, grants him 15 more years of life. Meanwhile, the neighboring king of Babylon hears word of Hezekiah’s illness and sends envoys to spy out whether the situation makes Israel ripe for conquest. By the time they arrive Hezekiah is fully recovered. Perhaps the miraculous recovery made him feel invincible, because instead of proving his health and rapidly sending the spies on their way, he decides to show off the riches of his treasury to them. This makes Israel a more tempting target than ever.
God responds to this foolish action by sending Isaiah to prophesy further.
Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the Lord: Days are coming when all that is in your house, and that which your ancestors have stored up until this day, shall be carried to Babylon; nothing shall be left, says the Lord. Some of your own sons who are born to you shall be taken away; they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.” (2 Kings 20:16–18)
This passage can remind us about our own work. At times of great success, it is easy to become proud and reckless. This can lead to great destruction if we forget that we depend on God’s grace for our successes.
Hezekiah compounds his first mistake with a second. Isaiah has just prophesied that after Hezekiah is gone, his sons will be captured and mutilated and the kingdom destroyed. Instead of repenting and begging God again to save his people, he does nothing.
Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “The word of the Lord that you have spoken is good.” For he thought, “Why not, if there will be peace and security in my days?” (2 Kings 20:19)
It seems he is thinking only of himself. Since this destruction is not going to come during his lifetime, Hezekiah cares nothing about it.
This episode challenges us to think about how our actions affect the next generation, rather than thinking only of our own lifetime. Marion Wade, the founder of ServiceMaster, focused on building a company that would endure, rather than on ensuring his own success. He said,
I was not asking for personal success as an individual or merely material success as a corporation. I do not equate this kind of success with Christianity. Whatever God wants is what I want. But I did try to build a business that would live longer than I would in the marketplace that would witness to Jesus Christ in the way the business was conducted.
Lewis D. Solomon observed that Wade succeeded in establishing a culture of God-directed leadership that lasted long after his tenure. During this extended period, the company was highly successful. Eventually, however, control passed to a CEO who adopted a less overtly God-centered leadership approach, and the company’s performance diminished.
“ServiceMaster, a successful publicly held Fortune 500 corporation, grew from humble roots, led first by a preacher-steward-leader and then by a succession of CEOs, who combined preacher-steward-servant leadership styles. More recently, this transitional firm, now led by a non-evangelical CEO, follows and inclusive, non-sectarian approach. Coincidentally with this transition, the company’s legal difficulties mounted and its financial results stagnated.
Marion Wade, The Lord is My Counsel (Prentice-Hall, 1966).
Lewis D. Solomon, Evangelical Christian Executives: A New Model for Business Corporations (Transaction Publishers, 2004, republished by Routledge, 2017), 10.