I’m chewing on King Hezekiah’s story in 2Chronicles this morning (ch. 29 – 32). He had a good run. Twenty-nine years on the throne and a lot to show for it. He oversaw a deep cleanse of the temple. He restored worship at the temple as it had not been conducted for years. He gave the people an opportunity to once again give expression of “willing hearts” through sacrifice and thank offerings.
Not only was he a catalyst for revival in Judah, but he also reached out to his wayward brethren of the northern kingdom to come to Jerusalem and worship through the remembrance of Passover. Inviting all the tribes of Israel to come as they were, consecrated or not, as he prayed to God that the Lord would pardon everyone who set their hearts to seek Him “though not according to the sanctuary’s rule of cleanness.” And God heard his prayer, healed His people, and accepted their worship. Not since Solomon had there been a Passover like the one quarterbacked by Hezekiah.
He was a king among kings. He nailed it during his reign. The inspired record testifying to it through the ages.
Thus Hezekiah did throughout all Judah, and he did what was good and right and faithful before the LORD his God. And every work that he undertook in the service of the house of God and in accordance with the law and the commandments, seeking his God, he did with all his heart, and prospered.
(2Chronicles 31:20-21 ESV)
But, like so many who run the race well, he got tripped up towards the finish line. As is all too common in the divine record, though he kicked keister for much of his life, it also seems he may have coasted somewhat toward the end of it. And how come? Pride.
In those days Hezekiah became sick and was at the point of death, and he prayed to the LORD, and He answered him and gave him a sign. But Hezekiah did not make return according to the benefit done to him, for his heart was proud. Therefore wrath came upon him and Judah and Jerusalem.
(2Chronicles 32:24-25 ESV)
Hezekiah would repent of his pride, and God would relent for a time, but I’m struck by the thought of how even spiritual success can be food for the flesh and can be used by the enemy to bring about spiritual failure. How even doing all the right stuff with the right heart can become a stumbling block when the right Person isn’t given the right glory. How even the motivation to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant” can be twisted into self-exaltation and misplaced self-confidence.
All the stuff that Hezekiah did that was “good and right and faithful before the LORD his God” eventually fueled the fire of thinking of himself more highly than he ought. Of trusting in himself more than he should. Of going it more alone than he was able.
How we need to guard the heart. It is a pride manufacturing machine. It can take even that which is done for the Lord and fashion it into an altar which aggrandizes self.
The longer we live, the longer we seek first the kingdom, the greater the opportunity to somehow think our good works are a result of our self-powered faithfulness. The longer we keep on keepin’ on, the more tales we’re tempted to write into our spiritual resumes as a way of suggesting something about our spiritual capability, rather than seeing them solely as evidence of the abundant grace of a God that works in us and through us and, so often, despite us.
How we need to beware even of spiritual success.
Oh to be more like John the Baptist. That the longer we seek to faithfully discharge the duty the Master has called us to, the more inclined we are to say:
“He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30 ESV)
By His grace. For His glory.