It’s easy to begin feeling out of the spotlight after a few years of being out of undergrad ministry, out of being seen as a leader. It’s a feeling I’m sure many vain young people like me struggle with, no longer having my own advice seen as important, no longer feeling as if my contribution “matters.” It’s not always that I feel this way, but it comes in waves. Here and there I feel disconnected, less significant. And it doesn’t help that with Xanga’s seemingly immanent demise, I’ve been pushed almost involuntarily to look at a slew of posts from years past.
The energy and passion I used to have, and with it, naivete, seemed to think of the world as a much smaller place than I do now, and it was much easier to conquer.
Makes me wonder what king Hezekiah was thinking as his sun was setting. After having witnessed a miraculous deliverance of his kingdom from the king of Assyria, and having experienced a miraculous healing and God adding 15 years to his life recently, Hezekiah was faced with a chilling prophecy from Isaiah, whose words had served largely to comfort and encourage him to this point:
The time will surely come when everything in your palace, and all that your predecessors have stored up until this day, will be carried off to Babylon. Nothing will be left, says the Lord. And some of your descendants, your own flesh and blood who will be born to you, will be taken away, and they will become eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.
Hezekiah had himself experienced a terrible siege in his younger days, and he reacted by pleading with God for rescue. At the prospect that it should happen again in years to come, however, he utters these words:
The word of the Lord you have spoken is good.
What could possibly have give him this viewpoint about the impending disaster that would come? God was telling him that his kingdom would be invaded, the wall of Jerusalem broken down, his very palace sacked, and his children enslaved and emasculated! How could he have been so matter of fact? Scripture gives only this answer:
He thought, “Will there not be peace and security in my lifetime?
“In my lifetime.” He knew that he would not live to see it, and so he decided that pleading with God one more time wasn’t worth it. He had done so a few times in his life, and had even seen God change his fortunes and the fortunes of Israel miraculously, but because he would not live to see the terror that was being spoken of, he acquiesced to it without so much as asking that his own family be spared.
What could have been going through his mind? When he looked at his children, his kingdom for the final fifteen or so years that he had remaining? How could he justify letting this prophecy pass without protest, even as he watched his sons grow up to be young men before his eyes, knowing that one day they would certainly be enslaved and taken away?
“What can I do?” “It will be all right.” “If God says they will suffer, then it must be so.”
A central mark of a king is concern for his people. Every leader that has failed to have genuine concern for his people and their welfare has been labeled as a tyrant, an abuser of authority. That concern is to extend beyond a king’s own lifetime, a king’s own moment of glory. A king whose concern for his family’s foreseeable future fails, that man has failed as king.
Hezekiah was remembered as a good king, but he was not sufficient. Only the true king could, and would, ensure the safety and prosperity of his people before the impending justice of the Almighty. The latter half of Isaiah’s book would center around this coming figure whose life, suffering, and sacrifice would achieve a lasting salvation. Meanwhile, Hezekiah would join the ranks of kings whose lives were good, even noteworthy, but whose flaws disqualified them from becoming Israel’s salvation.
Hezekiah’s self-centered view of his life silenced his intercession. While he probably did not have the power of to stop the judgment of God, that needn’t have prevented him from at least praying for mercy. His eyes were not towards the glory of God in Israel, nor towards the welfare of his people, but simply towards his own life, his own moment in the limelight, and the experiences he would himself have. He was satisfied with his life, and his satisfaction led to complacency.
There is a new generation of children whose lives will be impacted by my life and prayers. Some I have met, others I will meet soon, still others will be born after I am long gone. It is easy at times to wallow in self-centered pity, feeling dissatisfied with my impact, my experiences, but such thoughts only blind me to the truth: Jesus knew of the impending justice that was coming for me, but he did not remain silent. He not only interceded, but he intervened, laying down his own life so that I would not be carried off by death into eternal torment. His heart was for his children who would be born thousands of years after his own departure, even for one as far away and insignificant as me. He is the king that I love and I serve, the one who I follow.
By his grace, I pray that I might live to serve, speak to, and pray for a generation not yet born.