As Christians, we face physical and spiritual trials in our lives. Some ordeals we anticipate; other tests come unexpectedly, and we find ourselves unprepared. Sometimes trials come and we do not even recognize them for what they are.
The Apostle Paul wrote that “whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope” (Romans 15:4). When it comes to tests and trials, we can learn many valuable lessons from the life of King Hezekiah. He was a leader who “did what was right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his father David had done” (2 Chronicles 29:2).
Hezekiah was fully prepared to face his first major trial: to overcome the apostasy that his father, Ahaz, had caused to befall the nation. Ahaz had destroyed “the articles of the house of God, and shut up the doors of the house of the Lord, and made for himself altars in every corner of Jerusalem” (2 Chronicles 28:24).
At age 25, in the first year of his reign, Hezekiah began to correct the sins of his father. We read that “he opened the doors of the house of the Lord and repaired them” (2 Chronicles 29:3). Because the priests and the Levites had been negligent in their duties, they were now required to sanctify themselves and to clean up the holy place.
Hezekiah understood the principle of cause and effect. He understood that there was a reason for the trouble the nation was enduring. The wrath of the Lord had fallen on Judah and Jerusalem because the nation had broken the covenant it had made with the Eternal God of Israel. Hezekiah turned God’s fierce anger from Judah by spurring the nation to become obedient to that covenant once again (2 Chronicles 29:8–11). He worked diligently with the priests and Levites to reestablish the worship of God in the Temple at Jerusalem. However, there were too few priests to offer the sacrifices, and the people did not have time to gather at Jerusalem. So, following God’s instructions, Hezekiah and the nation kept the Passover in the second month (2 Chronicles 30:1–5; Numbers 9:10–11).
After Hezekiah and a great congregation kept the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread in the second month, he continued to restore the worship of the true God to Judah and to as many from Israel as were willing to follow God. We read that “in every work that he began in the service of the house of God, in the law and in the commandment, to seek his God, he did it with all his heart. So he prospered” (2 Chronicles 31:21). Hezekiah had faced the trial that he had clearly seen coming and, when he became king, successfully dealt with it.
Unexpected Trials Arrive
For 14 years, everything went very well for Hezekiah and Judah. Then Sennacherib, king of Assyria, came up against Judah (Isaiah 36:1). Hezekiah may not have seen this disaster coming, and probably thought what we often think when we are afflicted with a major trial: But God, I have been following you with my whole heart and I’m doing Your Work. Why are you letting this happen to me? However, Hezekiah did what he should have done. We are told, “And so it was, when King Hezekiah heard it, that he tore his clothes, covered himself with sackcloth, and went into the house of the Lord” (Isaiah 37:1). Hezekiah sought counsel from God’s prophet Isaiah, and God’s angel destroyed Sennacherib’s army (vv. 36–37). God fought the battle for them!
Later, another major unexpected trial hit Hezekiah when he became “sick and near death.” Isaiah told Hezekiah to set his affairs in order because he was going to die; God was not going to heal him (Isaiah 38:1). Again, Hezekiah faced this trial in a proper way. He turned to God and wept bitterly, praying that God would heal him of this affliction. Hezekiah was humble and contrite, and “the word of the Lord came to Isaiah, saying, ‘Go and tell Hezekiah, “Thus says the Lord, the God of David your father: ‘I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; surely I will add to your days fifteen years’”’” (Isaiah 38:4–5). How would we live if we knew the exact year we were going to die? This could be a trial in itself!
Hezekiah had to face one more major trial in his life, as a test. This time the trial blindsided him, because he did not recognize it for what it was. Merodach-Baladan, the son of Baladan, king of Babylon, sent letters and gifts to Hezekiah, telling him that he was glad to hear that Hezekiah had recovered from his serious illness (Isaiah 39:1). God then withdrew from Hezekiah to test him and to see what was in his heart (2 Chronicles 32:31). Hezekiah was flattered by the attention from the Babylonian king’s son, and he showed off all his silver, gold, spices, and precious ointments, along with all his war-making capabilities. He withheld nothing in his house or kingdom. Hezekiah did not think of this as a trial—he thought it wonderful that other people cared about his health and were pleased to hear of his recovery. In reality, however, he let his pride get to him. Although the coming captivity had to do primarily with the sins of other kings and of the nation as a whole, Hezekiah’s attitude partially affected God’s decision as well (2 Chronicles 32:24–25).
Through the prophet Isaiah, God told Hezekiah that the days “are coming when all that is in your house, and what your fathers have accumulated until this day, shall be carried to Babylon; nothing shall be left… and they shall take away some of your sons who will descend from you, whom you will beget; and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon” (Isaiah 39:6–7).
Hezekiah failed that test, but he repented (2 Chronicles 32:26) and God forgave him, just as God will forgive us if we repent when we fail tests. Overall, Hezekiah did very well, and Scripture tells us that “the rest of the acts of Hezekiah, and his goodness, indeed they are written in the vision of Isaiah the prophet” (2 Chronicles 32:32).
Lessons for Us
We can learn several lessons from Hezekiah’s life. We may face different kinds of trials—some we clearly see coming, some are unexpected, and some we may not realize are tests! Through all our trials, we must focus on God. We must look straight ahead to God and do what He wants us to do. When Hezekiah dealt with the trial he could plainly see—Israel’s apostasy—he was certain of the right course of action. Proverbs 4:23–27 tells us to look straight ahead and to do what is right, turning neither to the left nor the right. We are to seek first the Kingdom of God and trust Him to provide all our needs (Matthew 6:33). We should approach all of our trials in this way.
Hezekiah’s example also reminds us that we must use our time well, for it is our life. Hezekiah rose to the occasion when he finally recognized unexpected trials for what they were. When he knew he was going to die, he sought God’s mercy with fervent prayer and humility of mind. When God extended his life, he eventually lived it in such a way that God recognized him for his goodness.
If we knew that we had 15 years left to live, how would we use that time? Would we think that we could party and carouse for 14 years and 11 months, then repent and “be good” for the last few weeks—or even days? God wants us to use our time, and our lives, wisely. Paul tells us, “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:15–18). If we live this way, we will be able to deal with all the trials of life—even the unexpected ones.
Hezekiah’s example also reminds us to be wise and discerning. Hezekiah had the proverbs of Solomon: “These also are proverbs of Solomon which the men of Hezekiah king of Judah copied” (Proverbs 25:1). Therefore, Hezekiah should have known that “a man who flatters his neighbor spreads a net for his feet” (Proverbs 29:5). The men of Babylon were searching out Judah’s strengths and weaknesses, and they used flattery to convince Hezekiah to show them all that Judah possessed. Proverbs also tells us, “He who hates, disguises it with his lips, and lays up deceit within himself” (26:24). The envoys from Babylon used kind words to deceive Hezekiah, and we are warned not to believe the kind words of an enemy (Proverbs 26:25). Satan comes as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:13–14), but he is our enemy. An enemy may flatter us, but he is still an enemy. Even when we may not recognize a situation as a trial, we will pass the test anyway if we use wisdom and discernment.
Humility Lets Us Overcome
Hezekiah’s example should remind us to be humble, not prideful. While Hezekiah’s pride was based on the good he had done, we must remember that we are here by God’s grace and mercy. “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18). Proverbs also reminds us, “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the hearts” (21:2). God was testing Hezekiah’s heart (2 Chronicles 32:31). The Apostle James reveals that “‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ Therefore submit to God” (James 4:6–7). When we are humble, we will be able to overcome every trial, because we will be close to God and have access to His Spirit and power.
We need to learn these powerful lessons from the life of Hezekiah. Most of Hezekiah’s life was spent wisely in devotion to doing God’s work. He was focused on God. Let us be focused on Jesus Christ and on the Work that He has given us to do. Let us use our time circumspectly. Let us walk with wisdom and discernment, and let us emulate Hezekiah in one of the strongest traits he possessed: humbly seeking God through fasting and prayer.