When a people stray away from the core of who they are, it becomes a major endeavor to bring them back to what they need to be. We have witnessed a people who, after their first few kings, repeatedly strayed away from who they were called to be. They looked at God and looked at the world that resisted God and decided that despite all that God had done it was better to look like the world. It seems strange to us when reading the story that these people would turn away from God. God had done great things and many people who were living had seen some great things. But before we think that it is weird, how many times have you looked at someone who was good to you and said something terrible to them or did something hurtful for them. For some it is their friend and for others it is a family member. We have all made mistakes and acted out of selfishness toward those who have loved us dearly. Most of you have also thought of a moment by now that that has happened between you and God. It’s not that far from us to be like the Israelites. This happens to entire communities in that they lose sight of the goodness of God and they take their own path. They begin to think that they are the source of their own heroism and they are not. Within this reality, however, we have inklings of hope in dark chasms. People or small groups of people that stand up for the reality that God is the source of their lives and actions. God and everything that fits into God’s character is what these people struggle to remind us of.
Hezekiah sat in this position. He came into leadership of a nation and that nation had strayed far from the way of life God had directed them towards. This nation had continually taken to idol worship and using force for power. The weak were being taken advantage of and worship began to include rituals that did not fit what God had created people for. Hezekiah finally said that it was enough. He was going to bring the country back to the way God had instructed for them. Although being leader helped, it must be noted that this was a setting where assassination and coup’s would frequently happen. Hezekiah was changing where changing things so drastically would cause anger not only in the common man’s eyes but the powerful tribal leaders of the area.
To make matters worse, an empire called Assyria was on the war path to rule the known world. Assyria was a very violent culture and when they conquered people, you could bet that people would die in ways that most people would not do their worst enemies. Assyria was not following God and had followed their own religion. Such a violent culture which had no interest in a religion that declared that God was King would be another obstacle for Hezekiah. Hezekiah get into a struggle with Assyria with no way to win. It’s at that moment that Hezekiah has to be strong and courageous. This chapter ends with a taunted Israel and a dire situation with no way out.
The question that this chapter leaves us with is if following God is worth the trouble. What happens when we fight off everything that is wrong in order to bring good into this world? Can we stand in the face of adversity? Will God truly be faithful like He has been to His people before? The response to these questions is in the next chapter, but what is important is that if we see that our community of faith has strayed away from what God wants from us, how far will we go to change things to look more like what God has designed our faith be? We have to ask these questions within our community and answer the questions honestly.
In Chapter 19 we will discuss what God’s faithfulness looks like, but today, let’s keep looking towards our own faithfulness in response to God’s past faithfulness. It will take such bravery in some of our communities since some have deeply ingrained senses of resisting God. If we are brave, though, we will see something amazing happen. But we will have to wait to see that, just like the story is having us wait.