This week’s reading brought me to one of my not favorite verses in the Bible:
Then Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “The word of the LORD which you have spoken is good.” For he thought, “For there will be peace and truth in my days.” (Isaiah 39:8)
This is a response to Isaiah’s declaration that all the glory and wealth with which God had blessed Hezekiah’s ancestors would be destroyed or taken away by Babylon, and that Hezekiah’s own descendants would be carried off into captivity.
And that delcaration was God’s response to Hezekiah showing off all his stuff to some envoys from Babylon. The chronicler tells us that God was specifically watching Hezekiah’s interaction with these envoys in order to test him and see what was in his heart (2 Chron. 32:31).
I guess God was none too pleased with what he saw, and didn’t mince words with Hezekiah about the consequences.
The thing that is so vexing, though, is that Hezekiah cared very much when he was told by God that he was going to die from an illness (Isa. 38:2), or when he thought the Assyrians were going to take Jerusalem (Isa. 37). He didn’t say the word of the Lord was good then, or chock it up to the will of God. He mourned, fasted, prayed, and sought God’s deliverance. But when it came to the future of the nation, or even the well being of his own family, he suddenly had peace with “the word of the Lord.” He was willing to stop, settle, and accept as long as it didn’t directly affect him.
It is interesting to compare this with Abraham’s intercession for Lot (Genesis 18), and Moses’ intercession for Israel (numbers 14). God told them how things were gonna be, but instead of resigning, they interceded—and God responded. It is also interesting to compare this with Eli’s answer when God tells him that his sons will die and his house will be cut off because of the inadequacy of his response to his son’s sins: “It is the LORD; let Him do what seems good to Him.” (1 Samuel 3:18).
We can’t know what God would or wouldn’t have done had Hezekiah or Eli chosen to repent, reach out, and plead with God, of course. But it makes me curious (and a little intimidated) to perform an experiment and analyze the sorts of things I am willing to fervently seek God about, and the kinds of things I piously identify and resign to as God’s sovereign will.
Am I like Hezekiah and Eli who could have pressed in, but stopped seeking, and cloaked their unrepentant apathy in spiritual-sounding words? Or do I own my own part in things, and then see past myself to grieve, strive, work, and seek for others?
Or, I guess another way to look at it is, am I really trying to pursue God’s heart and perspective on things, or is my desire to “please God” more motivated by hoping he’s happy enough with me to make things go well for me? I think the answer to that question will largely determine where I’m willing to stop and resign.