It’s always refreshing to meet someone who is willing and able to interrupt the trajectory toward evil and corruption. I’ve noticed this distressful tendency in human experience — that in people’s unquenchable thirst for peer approval each generation seems to head just a little further down the road of corruption and self-destruction. This happens unless, or until, someone comes along who is willing to challenge this inclination and call people back to their spiritual heritage in God. Those who are willing to do so are known as true prophets and Reformers.
Such was Hezekiah, the 12th king to reign in Judah, including the time of Rehaboam, the son of Solomon, under whose rule the kingdom of Judah was divided from the kingdom of Israel. Hezekiah followed the rule of Ahaz, whose legacy was one of the worst in Judah’s history. Ahaz, it seemed delighted in pagan practices even going so far as to sacrifice his own sons in devotion to Baal. Despite God’s punishment of his evil ways by allowing other regional powers to attack Judah and force it into servility, Ahaz persisted in encouraging the people to sin and turn away from the true honour of God in the temple.
So when Hezekiah became king after Ahaz’s demise, it quickly became evident that he would turn the people back to the worship of Jehovah. Perhaps it was the influence of his godly mother, the daughter of a faithful priest (and likely also the influence of Isaiah, the prophet) for no sooner did he rise to the throne of Judah did he also re-open the doors of the temple and arrange for its repair and cleansing. He went through a substantial process of having Levites and priests purified for proper service in the temple as stipulated in God’s law. First he rededicated the temple for worship through the offering of many animal sacrifices. Then he arranged for the observance of the Passover which it appears had been neglected since the time of Solomon. Despite the ridicule that many heaped upon him from all of Israel he sent messengers throughout the land urging the people to come to celebrate the Passover in Jerusalem. And last, but not least, he restored a system of tithes for the care of the priests and Levites so that they could continue their duties. It is said in 2 Chronicles 31:21 that in everything that he undertook to do in the service of God’s temple and in obedience to the law and commandments of God, he did it with all his heart, and prospered.
Because of his genuine spiritual reforms, God blessed Hezekiah abundantly and saved him and Judah from the hands of their enemies. Unfortunately, his prosperity also led to a sense of pride, which served to dog him near the end of his life. Yet Hezekiah stands for us today as an icon of spiritual reformation in the midst of a time of great spiritual darkness and decline. He is a wonderful example to all Christians and leaders in many different spheres of what happens when a man bucks the trend and takes his stand for what is true and good under God.
It seems to me that the church (and the world, for that matter) has survived and prospered because of Reformers like Hezekiah who have been willing, with God’s help, and under godly influence, to turn the tide of evil back upon itself by lifting up God’s truth in word and practice. History has many examples of men and women who have been willing to stake their lives on the fact that God’s Word is true, and that He is honoured and His people blessed when they take Him seriously and follow His direction. The church is what it is today because of the reformation work of men like John Wycliffe, Martin Luther, and John Calvin, to name only a few. It was their willingness to act as salt in the midst of their own societies, taking a stand against the popular notions of the day, that have enabled the church to prosper.
Once again, we need those kind of reformers — people who are able to recognize the corruption and abuse of our times in social and religious practice, and are willing to challenge the status quo in spite of ridicule and rejection. We need people like Hezekiah who, because of godly influences in their own lives, have what it takes to turn back the tide of evil persuasion and practice so people can once again hear the truth of the Gospel and experience the eternal life and untold blessing it offers. I think we are in a time in which the Denomination under which I serve needs that kind of reformation. May it happen in this time, for the glory of the Lord.