11–17 September 2016.
In Israel, the priests and Levites didn’t have any land of their own. That meant that many of them lived in terrible poverty, with no way to support themselves or their families. Of course, the other Israelites were supposed to give donations to the Levites, but in reality that didn’t always happen.
So in today’s Bible text the good king Hezekiah has compassion on the Levites. Hezekiah was a faithful king who loved God and began a whole series of religious reforms in Israel. He removed all the shrines and altars used to worship other gods, and encouraged the Israelites to turn back to proper faith in God. He even found ways to feed and support the Levites. Verse 21 tell us that Hezekiah loved God with his whole heart, and as a result he was very successful. That sounds really nice – but was it true?
2 Kings 18 tells us that things actually went very badly for Hezekiah. In the year 701 BC, the Assyrian king Sennacherib came and attacked Judah. His army won, and took over a lot of Judean towns. Hezekiah was afraid of losing even more land, so he sent a message to the Assyrian king offering to pay him money if he would only stop the war. Sennacherib agreed and demanded a very high price. So Hezekiah took all the gold and silver from the palace and even from the temple and gave it all to the Assyrian king. Hezekiah even stripped the last bits of gold off the temple doors to pay the enemy king. But once Sennacherib got all of Judah’s riches, he came and attacked Jerusalem anyway! What a disaster!
Here in Chronicles, the writer changes this story. Maybe he felt that it just wasn’t fair for such a terrible thing to have happened to a good, righteous king like Hezekiah.
But those of us who have been Christians for a long time know that just because we have faith, doesn’t mean we will always succeed. This is a hard lesson, but a true one. Sometimes even if we do good, our enemies still win. So does that mean we should give up doing good and be dishonest instead? Of course not! Doing what God wants, being honest and good, is always the right way to go, even if there is no guarantee that it will lead us to success.
Pastor Stephen Lakkis