Today’s Reading: 2 Chronicles 31-33
Today’s Reflection: 2 Chronicles 32:31
And so in the matter of the envoys of the princes of Babylon, who had been sent to him to inquire about the sign that had been done in the land, God left him to himself, in order to test him and to know all that was in his heart.
Hezekiah was considered to be one of the righteous kings of Judah, having restored the priesthood and the proper worship of God, including the Passover (2 Chronicles 31:20-21). But righteous in the sight of God doesn’t mean perfection—David was considered perfect in the sight of God except for the matter of Uriah’s wife, but David made far more mistakes than the case of Bathsheba. Likewise, Hezekiah was not beyond error, and his greatest mistake came near the end of his reign.
After God protected Judah from the massive army of Assyria, defeating King Sennacherib (2 Chronicles 32:20-23) and healed Hezekiah from a fatal illness, granting him 15 more years of life and affirming this with an unmistakable miracle (2 Chronicles 32:24), an envoy from Babylon was drawn to Judah to inquire of their good fortune. Hezekiah had two choices: he could have told of the Lord’s goodness to his nation and to him personally, or he could have boasted of his own power in an attempt to gain their favour and perhaps look like a potential partner for a military alliance. With all Hezekiah had experienced he clearly should have done the former. Because of his pride, Hezekiah did the latter, and even though he humbled himself before God afterwards, the entire nation would ultimately suffer as a result (2 Chronicles 32:25-26). You can see more about this in the post for July 1: Walk This Way – Give God the glory… Or else (2 Kings 20:17).
Today’s text makes it clear that for Hezekiah, this choice was a test. What is interesting is what this says about the tests that God puts us through:
1) God left him to himself: We know God is always with us, but there are times when He seems to ‘go silent’. We pray and pray and pray, and there doesn’t seem to be an answer. There are many reasons this may happen: because we have undisclosed sin we have not repented of and cannot hear God (1 Samuel 28:6), because the forces of the enemy are attempting to stop God’s message from getting through (Daniel 10:10-14), or even because we are not yet ready to know the answer to what we’re asking (Daniel 8:26).
This text tells us another reason God may not be speaking to us may be because He is testing us. When you were tested at school you couldn’t consult your teacher, or your textbook, or your notes, because the purpose of the test was to see what you had learned, absorbed and retained in your mind. God does the same thing. It’s easy (easier, anyways) to do the right thing when we feel God or His wisdom is right with us providing the answer. Education changes your mind, but knowing God is supposed to change you. If we’re being tested God has given us enough experience and wisdom to know what is right, and enough opportunity to have accepted that truth and allowed it to change us from the inside out. The tests we receive determine whether this transformation has taken place in our lives or not.
For Hezekiah, his experiences with God should have been sufficient to make praise to God the first thing on his lips when sharing the greatness of Judah. With the Babylonian envoys Hezekiah had the attention of what would become the next world power. He had the opportunity to introduce them to the truth of the only wise God. But when left by himself, Hezekiah gave in to pride instead and failed the test.
2) To know all that was in his heart: The Word tells us that the heart of man is deceitful and unknowable (Jeremiah 17:9) so knowing the heart is certainly a useful goal for testing. But the Word also tells us God can look at the hearts of men (1 Samuel 16:7) and know them (Genesis 20:6). So if God already knows what is in our hearts, the test can’t be for His benefit. It’s for ours.
How often do we think we’re in a good place with God? That we’ve put past sins, bad habits, unhelpful views or thoughts about the world behind us? Then comes a situation, a circumstance, an event that shows us we haven’t learned as much as we hoped, haven’t grown as much as we thought, haven’t changed as much as we wished we had. Our initial reaction is to be disappointed, crushed, possibly even to give up trying. But whenever someone in the Bible fails a test, when they turn to God there is always grace just as there was for Hezekiah when he humbled himself before the Lord. The test isn’t there to condemn us, but to call us back to God. And though there may be consequences to failing the test, sometimes dire consequences, the ultimate goal when God tests us is restoration. The tests God allows us to undergo are there to make us better, not bitter.
James 1:2-4 – 2) Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3) for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4) And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.